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Moves Like Jagger!

This post can be found on my new blog. Kdrausin.com/blog/

 

I’m lucky because my kids really don’t ask for much. They are very appreciative for what they have and rarely will I hear “can you buy me…”

So when they do ask for something I know they have given it thought and whatever it is they ask for holds meaning to them. One evening during dinner Arielle said, “you know, Matt Nathanson, Maroon 5 and Train are coming to Tampa and there are only accessible seats left.”

A week later we hopped in my car and drove to Tampa because this is Arielle’s senior year of high school and next year at this time I’ll be talking to her on the phone and not sitting next to her at the dinner table (sniff, sniff).

We had a blast! First Matt Nathanson came on stage.

He sings, Come on Get Higher.

Then Maroon 5 opened with, Moves Like Jagger. The girls screamed, the crowd roared and Adam Levine danced across the stage. They played one hit after the next with intense energy. I don’t know if Adam Levine has moves like Jagger. He certainly has incredible stage presence and I thought I saw a tatoo that read, mom. He gets points for that.

Both kids knew all the words to every Maroon 5 song. I sang each chorus. The security guard next to me gave me a thumbs up every time he recognized a song.

Maroon 5 left the stage at 9:45 pm. and that’s when I realized just how late we were going to get home. A huge cup of coffee was in my future. Suddenly the lights dimmed and the thundrous sounds of a locomotive echoed through the night air. Train! I leaned over and yelled to my kids that if they are ever in a band, the should call themselves Jet and have the sounds of a jet taking off in the beginning of every concert and landing at the end. I’m sure they enjoyed hearing my brilliant idea as Patrick Monahan began to sing.

It was obvious Patrick had years of experience on stage. He was a pro with amazing showmanship. He talked to the crowd and seemed to care about putting on a great show as much as playing incredible music. He brought lots of fans on stage to dance with him. During Marry Me he ran down the aisles high-fiving everyone. I waved, my kids reached out and slapped his hand. The security guy laughed when Arielle held up her palm and pointed to where she had touched him.

Before we left I asked Arielle to take a picture of the three of us. It’s a little close. Get ready to see lots-o-teeth.

Me and my babies. Spending time with them sure makes me happy.

Drip… Kick… Drip… Kick

If you were in Florida yesterday… you probably got wet.

Here we are driving to our first professional soccer game. Um, isn't Florida the Sunshine State?

We were on our way to St. Petersburg which meant we had to cross the bridge. The big bridge. The one the Travel Channel rated #3 in its show “Top Ten Bridges in the World.” The Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Normally, I look forward to the view and when the kids are with me, I make them try to capture pictures of the pelicans that fly alongside the cars as they fish. But this time even my husband was a little nervous about being four hundred feet in the air with sheets of rain pouring over us.

Luckily when we got there. The rain had decided to take a break.

Florida clouds are awesome.

We found the stadium and Elle was whisked away to join the other athletes that were representing CAF. The Challenged Athletes Foundation.

So I took pictures of my beautiful boy who is now as tall as me. It’s a unique experience watching your little boy grow into a young man in three short years. Suddenly there’s facial hair, a deep voice and strength greater than your own. I once made the mistake of trying to wrestle with him. Although, that strength sure comes in handy when I have a trunk full of groceries.

I also took pictures of the soccer players because Elle told me if I got some good ones, she’d post my blog on her Facebook profile for her friends to see. She has a LOT of friends which means more traffic for my blog so here it is…

And here too.

Thank you, daughter.

After a short delay for lightning and rain, the ceremony began. Back in 2007 Elle and Eric ran in a Disney 10K. Elle was in her every day chair. A representative from CAF spotted her, called us, and asked if Elle would like a racing wheelchair. We said, “what’s a racing wheelchair?” Three years later CAF helped us convince the FHSAA that high school track programs should include wheelchair racing. Elle made this video for CAF and now coaches across the state are encouraged to get teens with ambulatory challenges (SCI, Spina Bifida, Amputee) involved in their track programs.

A double rainbow appeared over all the athletes as if to say all is right in a world where able-bodied and challenged athletes compete side by side.

Puerto Rico won the game 2-1. Puerto Rico is a great place to visit. I know because I’ve been there.

Don’t tell anyone but we didn’t stay for the entire game. We would have except it kept raining and even though we remembered our umbrellas we couldn’t take them into the stadium. When the guard told me this, I gave him my “Are you serious? Have you glanced at the sky?” look. To which he replied “Imagine, two thousand umbrellas.” Okay. He had a point. When it was obvious the rain was going to continue, we skedaddled.

The experience was enough to leave us wanting more… so, Eric is getting us tickets to a soccer game in Barcelona. Yep, the Rausin family is going back to Europe. We are Barcelona bound in a few weeks. If anyone reading this lives in Barcelona or if anyone has ever been to Barcelona, please send me some tips. So far, I only have our plane tickets and an apartment.

In the meantime be sure to check back on Wednesday. I’m going to post my favorite dessert of all time. The one where I could actually sit down and devour the entire pan myself. I’m making it tomorrow and I’ve been excited about it for days! Of course it includes chocolate. YUM!!!

Busch Gardens Fabulous to First Day Blues

Friday was a great day. We woke early, hit the road, and arrived at Busch Gardens before noon.

I prefer not to be dropped from hundreds of feet and jolted and shaken and turned upside down. However, the rest of my family finds it entertaining. Here I am taking a picture of them while they’re waving at me and screaming, “mom!” Funny thing was, I never heard them, was completely oblivious, snapped the shot because it was something to do. Imagine my surprise when I uploaded my pictures. And they laughed at me for not hearing them. Ha, I showed them. Or actually I will show them when they read this.

Montu 3.85 G's!

The boys put up with me peacefully watching the animals and taking hundreds of pictures. Here’s one of my favorites. Probably because she wandered away from the group and did her own thing. I can relate.

Elephants

Did you know some elephants like to dance? I saw it with my own eyes. An elephant swaying to the Busch Gardens soundtrack. I wanted to take video but my camera battery decided it was too worn out. Sitting on the curb, his hand on his chin, my husband interrupted my zen like state with,”they should be playing ___g ____s (that famous AC/DC – Ozzy Osbourne song.) Now that would be funny.” He got a big laugh from teenage son and two glares from me and daughter. See what I’m going to have to live with when the only other female in the house leaves for college? I’m in trouble. Serious trouble.

We found our way to the kangaroos and wallabies after getting thoroughly soaked. You would think after all of these years of living through Florida summers I would have been prepared for the afternoon rain. Nope. We didn’t even take cover. Just provided entertainment for the intelligent guests of Busch Gardens who stood under awnings and umbrellas.

It had been many years since we’d visited Busch Gardens. We used to go every summer when the kids were little. Memories were around every corner. Like this…

Which is now this…

When my son grabbed his stomach and squinted his eyes, we knew he had enough rollercoaster rides for one day. Luckily our hotel was across the street. Unluckily, none of us thought to pack more than one change of clothes in case we got wet. Dinner was a bit uncomfortable. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sopping socks and sneakers.

You know how everyone says that time flies and you get so sick of hearing it and just want to say please come up with a new phrase that ones been done already! Well, I think people say it because they have children graduating and they don’t feel any older and they are trying to figure out how the little baby they held in their arms has grown into the young adult that will soon be saying good-bye. Ouch!

I have two graduates this school year, one from twelfth grade and one from eighth. Monday morning thunder could be heard for miles. Students all over Lee County were waking before dawn to lightning flashes and pouring rain. The trees were happy but these two… not so much. August eigth was way too early to be the first day of school. Of course they won’t think that in May but that’s ten months from now which seems like forever to a teenager. Ten months to a mom can feel like tomorrow because time flies. I mean, time insists upon change whether we are ready or not. So ready or not I’m venturing into my daughter’s last full school year at home with her family. Ouch!

Fail to Succeed

  Please visit me at my new blog kdrausin.com/blog/.

My husband has a saying he likes to repeat to me, “You must fail to succeed.” He said he learned this from going to the gym.  The only way he can improve his strength is by choosing a weight so heavy he is only able to do four to six reps instead of the normal eight to twelve. In failing to lift the weight the full amount he succeeds in building his muscles. Eventually the weight he could only lift six times is lifted twelve and more weight is added. The process begins again.

This saying of his has been on my mind lately. Is it true? Is it in failing that I succeed?

Two years ago I met the most amazing group of women. Seven of us traveled to Honesdale Pennsylvania to attend a two-part writing workshop called, “The Heart of the Novel.” Our teacher was the well known editor Patti Gauch. She was the reason we were all there. On our first visit we listened carefully to Patti’s every word, ate incredible food and then retreated to our individual cabins to write. Our goal was to have a completed novel in six months and send it to Patti to edit before our next gathering.

When we all returned to Honesdale it was like a family reunion. We had kept in touch through email discussing what we had learned and supported one another in our writing. We were all anxious to see Patti’s notes on our novels.

This was my first children’s novel and at the time I was still figuring out the differences between an editor and an agent responsibilities. I had two drafts written of MYSTIC and in my mind, I was done. It was ready.

I’ll never forget the rainy afternoon that I received my notes from Patti. I sat on the bed listening to the ping of rain on the tin roof of the cabin reading through her pages and feeling as though I was the worst writer in the world. I wondered why I even tried in the first place. I felt foolish and embarrassed.

I got out my cell phone and climbed to the top of a hill, umbrella in hand, trying to get more than one bar on my cell in order to call my husband. He would comfort my failure and probably even lie to me and tell me I was a great writer. Because that’s what husband’s do.

When it was time for my meeting with Patti, I asked her if she thought I should take a creative writing class. Here I was at a writing workshop with women who had already been published. Women who had graduated from prestigious colleges and I was just a teacher who liked to write. I was feeling very sorry for myself. Patti said no to the writing class and then said something  I’ll never forget. “You’re closer than you think.”

Saying those words to me made me see her notes in a different light. I realized that everything she was telling me about my story was necessary in order to make the story better. My expectations of what I wanted to read in her notes were unrealistic. An editor is a teacher and a guide. A talented soul who helps writers hone their craft.

We focused on the first chapter. She showed me my mistakes and challenged me to try again. Still feeling vulnerable I went back to my cabin and forced myself to sit down with my laptop. I rewrote the first chapter. The next morning the sun shone bright. The dark clouds had disappeared taking with them much of my insecurity. I was not going to give up. Patti read my chapter and smiled. I learned and improved. The process of storytelling was finally sinking in.

If Patti had told me that my story was brilliant, which is what I wanted to hear, I never would have grown as a writer or as a person. I had to fail in order to gain the strength to persevere.

Isn’t that what life is all about? Perseverance – through the perceived good and perceived bad. If I don’t falter in following my path, I know all my failures are just stepping stones to success.

This morning  I typed J into Google. I wanted to research the teachings of J. Krishnamurti. But when I typed J – pictures of J. K. Rowling appeared. I had to look because last night I watched the Lifetime movie of her life. And a few days ago I wrote about Daniel Radcliffe.  That’s when I found the following in Wikipedia.

Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as “the biggest failure I knew.”[42] Her marriage had failed, she was jobless with a dependent child, but she described her failure as liberating:

Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea.
And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. – J.
K. Rowling, Harvard commencement address, 2008.[42]

Bonus, it tied right in with today’s title.

Thanks for reading and here’s to failure!

Stalking Daniel Radcliffe

This post can also be found on my new blog. Kdrausin.com/blog/

Last week was Harry Potter week. Picture me curled up on the couch, Kai lounging in the chair next to me, lights dimmed, watching a Harry Potter movie every night. Meanwhile, Arielle was stalking Daniel Radcliffe in New York City. It worked. I received a text while watching the Half Blood Prince, with this picture and several hundred OMG!’s

Individually autograhed PLAYBILLS

The Universe works in wonderous ways and that little autographed picture led to four very big smiles.

THANK YOU! to Mr. Radcliffe’s bodyguard who made sure Arielle did not get trampled in the crowd waiting to get a glimpse of the star after his, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,  performance. This mom is very grateful for your protection of her daughter.

Midnight movie openings are our family tradition but this month two of our family members were in different states. So, we picked up a friend and Kai and I went to see a double feature. Deathly Hallows part one followed by Deathly Hallows part two at midnight.

Harry Potter look-a-likes

With our Harry Potter adventures behind us we raced to the airport to pick up Arielle. While waiting we spotted this…

Jets Playing Chicken

And she’s home after three weeks at Columbia University’s summer camp for high school students. She met teens from all over the world and loved her Urban Studies class.  

We celebrated by eating at CPK because eating my cooking would not be celebrating.

When Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1998 these were the two beautiful faces I saw every day.

They grew up with J. K. Rowling’s marvelous characters and stories. Just as Harry Potter will live on forever in the hearts of millions, so will my memories of rushing to the bookstore, costumes with robes and wands, and midnight movies. Time insists we say good-bye  but every experience we have whether it’s a camp, a series of books, or a childhood, prepares us for our next great adventure!

Tourists Behaving Badly… The End

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Case 4:

We finished lunch and decided to squeeze in the Harry Potter Exhibit before our next show.

On our way out of the restaurant I heard someone calling my name. I couldn’t believe it! It was a friend from Ft. Myers. We stopped, amazed at seeing each other so far from home. Elle had already started to make her way through the crowd of people waiting at the door. Imagine shoulder to shoulder people and having to try to get through in a wheelchair. People have to look down in order to see a wheelchair approaching. A lot of “excuse me’s” have to be said. Imagine going through this every day all day.

I called to Elle to wait for me. Then quickly decided it was better to meet her outside. Upon hearing my voice she stopped midway through the crowd and turned and then turned back around to head out the door. Every day normal behavior – except she’s in a wheelchair in a crowd.

As I caught up to Elle I heard a woman’s voice yelling at her, telling Elle she has to be careful she could hurt someone. Elle ignored her and kept going. I stopped right in front of the woman, hesitated, remembered my manners, and shot daggers at her with my gaze. Luckily, my friend was right behind me and the excitement from meeting up with someone I hadn’t seen in years overpowered my desire to exchange words with the angry woman.

We said good-bye to my friend and ventured across the street to see Harry Potter. Neither of us mentioned the woman in the restaurant. We needed to press on and enjoy and not let a stranger’s ugliness ruin what was left of our day.

A little magic was all we needed. The Harry Potter Exhibit exceeded our expectations. We saw a collection of props and costumes from the films and listened to recordings of the artists who made them. I even pulled a Mandrake out of its pot and listened to it squeal. Did you know that every feather on Buckbeak was hand painted? Amazing.

Elle and I had to rush to the theatre to see Catch Me if You Can. There we were swept away into song and dance for two hours. After the show, Elle got her picture with Aaron Tveit and all was well in our world again.

Final Thoughts:

The reason I titled this blog, Tourists Behaving Badly, is because with the exception of the taxi drivers I really believe it was tourists and not New Yorkers being rude. People who worked at every restaurant and tourist attraction we went to were exceptionally kind and helpful. In fact when we arrived in line at TKTS someone found us and moved us right to the ticket window. We heard the phrase “wheelchairs first” several times throughout our trip. We laughed as the men on the street, collecting for the homeless, would yell “you go girl!” as Elle wheeled by. I sensed an accessibility awareness that I had not sensed three years ago when I last visited New York City. The reason I have blogged about our difficult day is to raise awareness and to let the other parents of disabled children know I understand what they may be going through.

Elle has been at Columbia University camp for high school students for three weeks. Concerned, I asked her if she’s been able to get cabs. She told me that if she tries to get a taxi while she’s near Columbia she has no problem at all. However, Times Square is still very difficult. Elle told me she figured out a trick to getting a taxi in Times Square. When she and her group of friends are ready to go back to Columbia her friends will hail the taxi and she will pretend she’s not with them. When the taxi stops Elle will quickly wheel over and get in. Only once did a taxi driver say “Is that a wheelchair? No!” Immediately, one of Elle’s new friends starting yelling at him and telling him he couldn’t do that. He drove off.

I cannot protect my daughter from the grimaces or ugly words of others.
I can teach her to use her disability to help educate the public and smooth a path for others.
I can teach her to cherish herself whether she’s standing or sitting.
I can teach her the words of strong women that came before her.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt

Tourists Behaving Badly Continued

Our agenda for Saturday was Empire State Building, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, lunch, Harry Potter Exhibit, and then Catch Me if You Can. Here’s what happened in between…

Case 2: Taxi’s!

My husband and one of my close friends are extroverts. They have a gift for speaking combined with a joyous energy that immediately puts people at ease. I, on the other hand, am very much an introvert. I am comfortable getting to know people from the safety of my computer. “Email me,” is my phrase of choice. Even the phone makes me cringe. So, hailing a taxi is way outside my comfort zone.

In NYC they have SUV taxi’s that have a handicap sticker on the back. Well, I think it’s just for show because taxi drivers took one look at the wheelchair and came up with varied excuses of why they couldn’t transport us.

I can have the wheelchair apart and stored in minutes and Elle is an expert at transferring but my lack of social skills and my pain of knowing we were being passed by because of the wheelchair stopped me from being able to educate the drivers and show them it’s really easy to transport someone who is paraplegic and can transfer.
I chose to walk everywhere, hiding from Elle the fact that we couldn’t get a taxi because of the wheelchair.

Walking to the Empire State Building from the theatre district is one thing, wheeling it is another. The sidewalks and roads are bumpy and there are a lot of people to watch out for. Still, Elle had no fear and did wheelies over every obstacle in her path – only falling once.

After our tour of the Empire State Building I told Elle we would take a taxi to the theatre where our show began in less than an hour. I could feel my stress starting to build. When we exited the Empire State building there was a cab parked along the curb with a driver waiting. He had the handicap sticker on his van. I had a moment of hope. I waved, he opened his window and preceded to give me an excuse of why he couldn’t take us. That’s when the lid popped off of my little compartment and I felt extreme pain. I knew I needed to advocate for my daughter and tell him how easy it was to transport us but I couldn’t. The sadness that was within me overcame me and I could do nothing but wave him off. I turned to Elle and said, “let’s just walk.”

Elle was tired and afraid we wouldn’t get to the theatre in time. She wanted to try to get another cab. That’s when it happened. That’s when I made my doozie of a mistake and shattered her safe world. I told her the taxi’s wouldn’t take us because of the wheelchair. I told my own daughter it was her fault we weren’t getting a ride. Immediately guilt consumed me. I tried to explain to her that while I do advocate for her as often as I can, this was a situation that hurt me too deep. People were excluding my child from a right she deserved! I was afraid my emotions would get the best of me. I didn’t have confidence in my ability to speak with the taxi driver in a calm way and I was fearful of trying again. I made a mistake. A big one! I should have faced my fear for my daughter. It was a long quiet trip back to the theatre. Elle was hurt… deeply. This is what happened next.

Case 3:

We reached the theatre with a few minutes to spare before the afternoon show. They had one accessible bathroom and the rest were down two flights of stairs. I handed Elle her ticket before she went into the restroom and then headed downstairs.

When I returned to the lobby I saw Elle from behind, the theatre manager standing beside her and a woman bent over talking to her. I knew something was wrong. I thought it was from our taxi incident. I touched her back and when she turned around and saw me she burst into tears. What could have happened? I was only gone for ten minutes. I looked at the woman and saw she had tears in her eyes but she said nothing. I turned to the manager who said, “let me take you to your seats.” I was confused.

We had excellent seats and Elle transferred into a movable chair. The tears started flowing as she explained what happened. Apparently after she got into the bathroom an elderly man started banging on the door and yelling. It frightened her. A crowd gathered and tried to explain to him that a young lady in a wheelchair had just gone in and he’d have to wait. He continued to yell and bang and insist that Elle was staying in the bathroom just to spite him.

Elle came out and the man shook his head at her. Afterwards his wife apologized. It was all too much for a seventeen year old to handle.
The theatre manager was very kind. He came to our seats to check on Elle and gave her a souvenir mug. It was obvious he was genuinely concerned. When he saw Elle’s tears had not stopped he put his hand on her shoulder. Then he said “Um… you do know this play is about the Iraq war… right?” I knew but tried (emphasis on tried) to be funny. ” What? We just came to see Robin Williams.”

Elle was sad, embarrassed, angry at the scene that had just taken place. Angry at the old man. Angry at me for not getting us a taxi and bringing to her attention that it was because of the wheelchair. I was angry at me for what I had said. It was too much wheelchair drama for one day and both of us were emotionally exhausted. I realized for the first time that the world I was sending my daughter out into was really very different from our world in Cape Coral. And now my daughter was no longer the cute little girl in the wheelchair, she was the beautiful young woman in the wheelchair. There is a difference in how people react to the two.

I pulled out the peanut M&M’s and began my spiel on human behavior and reasons of why this man may have been yelling. Beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or frustration because he was worried he would have an accident. I told her his yelling was all about him and what he was going through – not her. The last thing I want is for Elle to carry anger inside her for everyone that makes an insensitive remark, gives her a dirty look, or is afraid to pick her up in taxi because of the wheelchair. These are things that are a reality in her life and she must find a way to deal with them that doesn’t turn her into a bitter, defeated, individual. Seeing things from someone’s else’s perspective and forgiving or letting go is freeing and essential in order for her to be at peace and live her life to the fullest.

The play was intense. Robin Williams, Glenn Davis, Brad Fleischer and Arian Moayed were brilliant. Elle and I waited a few minutes afterwards to see Robin Williams. I knew he was friends with Christopher Reeve and he supports the Reeve Foundation which has been very good to us. I wanted to meet him and thank him. After everything that happened and seeing the play, I wasn’t sure if my words would come out right. The introvert in me took over. We left for a late lunch.

What happened at lunch and what Elle has to do to get a taxi (She’s still in NYC) that’s tomorrow’s blog.

Tourists Behaving Badly

This post can be found on my new blog. Kdrausin.com/blog/

This story needs an introduction because it will be posted over three days. When I sat down and wrote about our experiences traveling with a wheelchair in New York City I ended up with four pages of material. Four pages is way too long for a blog. So I’ve broken it down into Cases 1-4. Instead of waiting a week between each post, I will post daily until my story is told.
If you haven’t read my article New York City Amazing, please do. It’s an account of the wonderful time my daughter and I had in New York City. I want to make it clear that overall our trip was amazing. So be sure to read about all of our wonderful experiences first and then come back and read about tourists behaving badly. Even if you don’t have a child with a mobility challenge your eyes may open to some of the daily obstacles those in wheelchairs must face.

This is all from a moms perspective. I can’t comment on my daughter’s feelings. She could probably write several articles about having to deal with a mom who is an introverted advocate. Sometimes they clash. This post is about what I go through watching others react to my daughter and how I deal with it. Deep breath… It’s my closest friends that hear these stories but after reading some posts on the Reeve Foundation site, I felt it was time to fess up.

Somewhere down deep inside me is a little compartment where I have stored all my pain from watching what Elle has had to go through since she was ten years, two months and eleven days old. Most of the time that compartment is sealed and layered on top with strength and a belief that everything will always be okay. But sometimes, especially when I am a bit worn from traveling, something will happen that will blow the lid off that little compartment of mine. At those times I feel intense anger, pain and sorrow braided together shooting through my veins.

Case 1:

Elle and I went to see Mamma Mia. Broadway theatres are not the most accessible. However, they really do try and accommodate those with disabilities and we get discounted tickets simply because there is really no choice of seats. We sit where they can accommodate us.

For Mamma Mia we were put on the end of a row of seats. I was asked to move the wheelchair to a specific spot away from the crowd. Understandable. But now think about it. Elle is in the end seat, not able to move her legs. The wheelchair is not in sight. People need to climb over her to get to their seats. There is less leg room than on an airliner. It’s a tight squeeze. When people see Elle they have no idea she is paralyzed. She appears to be very rude by not standing up and letting others pass. Even after Elle said, “I can’t stand.” One woman gave her a death glare and then finally climbed over her. As a teenager Elle doesn’t want to announce to total strangers -“I’m paralyzed thanks to a car accident seven years ago.” I certainly don’t want to embarrass her by speaking for her when she’s capable of speaking for herself. It’s a difficult situation.

The man who sat next to me actually saw the wheelchair. He saw Elle transfer to her seat. That’s why what he did thoroughly confused me. At intermission, I stood and climbed over Elle. It was my way of showing what needed to be done if anyone wanted to exit the row. Climb over her or go out the other end. I stood in the aisle behind Elle. The man that was next to me stood up. He looked at Elle. She had her legs crossed. He pointed to her top leg bent over a bit and said “Can you move that leg right there?”

I wanted to scream at him! Oh, the things I wanted to say to him. How dare he point at and almost touch her leg. Who does that? The lid was popped off my little compartment so fast I was shaking inside. I kept quiet but felt the tornado of emotion swirl inside me. I watched. Elle took her hands placed them on both sides of her leg and lifted her leg down to the floor. He climbed over. Shooting through my brain were thoughts of wanting to shake this man and tell him to get a clue mixed with thoughts of, he doesn’t understand, there’s no way for him to physically see her injury. He just made a mistake. He’ll learn better if I don’t give him a reason to get defensive. Still, the mom in me wanted to protect my daughter from the pain of his words. The mom in me wanted to tell him he was being an insensitive idiot. He obviously realized his mistake after seeing that Elle couldn’t move her legs without lifting them with her hands. On his way back he climbed over his chair from the row behind us.

At the end of the show he and his wife exited our row from the other end. He had seen the wheelchair when we arrived. Why did it take him humiliating my daughter before he had common courtesy? I can’t answer that other than to say his expectations combined with his selfishness stopped him from seeing that Elle was not trying to inconvenience him. There was nothing she could do.
The truth is, had this been the only uncomfortable incident on our trip, I wouldn’t have written about it. We have dealt with many dirty looks and ignorant remarks over the years. When we returned to our hotel that night I let Elle know some of the words I wanted to say to that man and we both laughed.

Little did we know what was coming on Saturday. Saturday was the day I made my doozie of a mistake with my daughter. Saturday was quite a day! To be continued…

New York City Amazing!

I stood outside Columbia University with my suitcase. My mind was cloudy, my stomach sick and my eyes filled with tears. A black car pulled up and popped the trunk. I handed the man my suitcase and climbed in the backseat alone not fully understanding what I was feeling. I didn’t know saying good-bye would hurt so much. Or I did know and refused to face it. Either way it was happening and I was on my way home without my daughter. But that’s a blog for another day. Let me start at the happy beginning where mother and daughter arrive in New York City eager to explore and see Broadway shows.

We arrived at the Sheraton Thursday afternoon. Police with bomb sniffing dogs strolled the lobby. President Obama was going to arrive in a few hours. Perfect, we had enough time to eat and then get back for a picture of the President.

I took a step outside and felt the anxiety rush over me. I had forgotten about city life. Shoulder to shoulder with strangers, trying to scan the sidewalks and streets for large bumps that might catch Arielle off guard, lights flashing, sirens and horns blaring. I was studying our location and making sure I knew how to get back. We moved with the crowd. The sky was gray; misty rain dripped down on us. We were in another world far from our sunny, pedestrian-free Cape Coral.

Arielle found TKTS and I thought why not? We already had tickets to Spiderman, Catch Me if You Can, and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, but we didn’t have plans for Thursday night. Book of Mormon – no luck. We were able to get half price tickets to Mamma Mia and bonus – I knew all the music!

Planet Hollywood was close. We ate and then made our way back to the Sheraton. It was packed with police and onlookers hoping to get a glimpse of President Obama. One thing I love about New York City is that people talk to one another. It’s perfectly acceptable to strike up a conversation with a stranger on the street or in a restaurant. We waited and waited and learned about the lives of those around us but never saw the President. Oh well, we had a show to get to.

I am teased mercilessly for having been in musicals and not wanting to watch musicals. I am not the fan that my daughter is. She can spout off actors names, what they played in, if they’ve won awards and probably their favorite foods. I prefer plays to musicals especially thought provoking dramas. But this trip was for Arielle’s senior year and my only request was to see Robin Williams in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. Mama Mia was the perfect musical to begin our trip. Up-beat and fun the crowd danced and sang. I especially enjoyed the comedic acting of Stacia Fernandez, Lisa Brescia and Jennifer Perry. And then there was Jordan Dean… well, when he took his shirt off…

Friday morning by six am. we were at the Today Show to see Bruno Mars. The crowd was unbelievable. We heard Bruno Mars but could only see him through a small television screen the crew set up. Ann Curry had such a compassionate presence and she took the time to hug fans and pose for pictures. I got a glimpse into their world and saw how overwhelming it must be to have so many people snapping pictures, calling your name, and asking for autographs – every day of the week all year long.

After the Today Show taping my head was pounding. Traveling and lack of coffee had caught up to me. But we were in the city for only ninety six hours. I had to keep going. We made our way to Macy’s and spent our afternoon shopping. Then it was back to the hotel to get ready for Spiderman.

Arielle spouted off facts about Spiderman and Reeve Carney as we sat waiting for the show to begin. I was excited to hear U2’s music. A lifetime ago when I was in high school I jumped in a car with two friends for a road-trip to Philadelphia. The words U2 or BUST written on the windows.

Spiderman was incredible! It reminded me of a rock concert. Then there was the flying – wow! It’s an experience as much as it is a show. I loved it. Of course we had to wait outside for autographs afterwards. Reeve Carney posed for a picture with Arielle and I think that trumped everything else we had done so far on the trip.

Saturday’s agenda began with a tour of the Empire State building and sky ride, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, and then a late lunch at Lindy’s. Several wheelchair related dramas combined with the intensity of the play left Arielle and I a bit emotional at lunch (more about that in the next blog). We couldn’t talk about the play or the events leading to the play because the wounds were too fresh and we needed to lift ourselves up and enjoy the rest of the day. We had four hours until Catch Me if You Can so I suggested we take a peek at the Harry Potter Exhibit that happened to be right across the street. As we were making our way out of the restaurant I heard someone call my name. I turned and couldn’t believe it! A. H., a teacher I taught with at Edison Park was standing there smiling at me. We hadn’t seen each other in years and now here we both were in New York City! She too was having a mother-daughter weekend seeing Broadway shows. Amazing!

Catch Me if You Can blew me away. The talent of Aaron Tveit (another name I’ve heard a lot about), Tom Wopat and Norbert Leo Butz was as mouth dropping as Jordon Dean’s body. If you’re still reading this, I thought that would be more interesting than simply writing – awesome. Oh and thank you for still reading.

Aaron Tveit posed for a picture with Arielle and she was still smiling and talking about him Sunday morning while we prepared for our adventure to Columbia University.

We climbed in a cab and drove uptown to 116 and Amsterdam. Arielle was quiet. She was as nervous as I was. Parents and students with suitcases and cameras lined the sidewalk below us. At the far end of the giant stone stairway was a long metal ramp. Thank goodness. Ramps always make me happy. A kind man with a Columbia University shirt helped us with our bags. Blue and white balloons waved in the wind welcoming students. Arielle was quiet. They handed her the keys to her dorm. When we got off the elevator we were greeted by two smiling RA’s who had decorated the dorm area in a 70’s theme. Arielle’s name was written on a record that hung on her door. I helped her unpack and then we went off to explore Riverside Park and ate at an Indian Cafe. Delicious. I bought her some Wd40 for her wheels and extra towels and stopped for more pictures inside the University gates. Our mother-daughter New York City trip had come to an end and now it was time for Arielle to begin her college camp experience. I told her how proud I was of her and if she needed me for anything I’d be there in… three or four hours. We laughed. I picked up my suitcase and gave her one last hug.

As I stepped outside the building I saw a student collecting the balloons that had welcomed us. He let a few go. I watched as they drifted away. One more year until she graduates. One more year.

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To Spank or Not to Spank

Cold Stone was closed. We ventured next door to Evos and split a veggie burger. It had been an interesting weekend. Mother and teenage daughter together in Tampa; moods rising and falling like a rollercoaster track. It happens sometimes, fortunately not often. When it does we eventually talk it out.
By the time we got to Evos all was well. The Dixie Games were behind us and chocolate peanut butter cup ice-cream was in our future. It was our “sweet” day. We sat and waited for the magic twelve-o-clock hour and talked. My daughter shared a story about an incident that took place just an hour earlier. She started out with, “I almost cried, mom.”

My interest piqued. I knew somehow she wasn’t going to tell me a story about wheelchair racing. She asked me if I remembered seeing a certain little girl about nine years old wheeling around in a wheelchair that obviously wasn’t hers. I did. The little girl was two sizes too small for the wheelchair; a giveaway that it’s an able-bodied person having fun wheeling around. I thought it was adorable because she wanted to be like the many other kids and adults that were participating in the Dixie Games at the USF track. Every time I saw her, I smiled.

It was right before my daughter’s last race. She decided to use the restroom while I waited next to the track with her racing chair. I heard a last call for the 1500 meter race and got nervous. Where was she? Twice I thought about leaving to go get her. Twice I felt that inner pull, the little voice that says act, and twice I ignored it. In a few minutes my daughter returned just as they were calling her name. I admired her perfect timing and thought everything was okay. She got in her racing chair, I wished her luck and she joined the others lining up.

Sitting at Evos she told me what happened. While in the restroom my daughter saw the smiling little girl in the wheelchair. Then her mother appeared and grabbed her by the wrist and drug her yelling and crying into a bathroom stall where she told her to pull her pants down. My daughter listened to the little girl’s screams after each slap not knowing what to do. When it was over she saw the pain in the little girl’s eyes.

Anger shot through me as I listened to the story. I knew that had I been there, I would not have kept my mouth closed. Those who know me well, know that I’m calm and easy-going most of the time. I don’t get riled up by much. However, whenever I witness a child being hurt by an adult emotionally or physically, I cannot keep silent. I probably would have told the mom that she was spanking the self-esteem right out of her child. I probably would have told her to hit me because then at least she could get her anger out on an adult stranger instead of an innocent child that looked to her for safety. I probably would have made a fool out of myself but I would have done it to let that mom and child know that spanking is not accepted by everyone and there are healthier ways to discipline. Ways that don’t teach children to hit out of anger and don’t make children feel helpless and humiliated at the hands of another – someone who loves them.

I know there are many who disagree with me and think that spanking a child is normal and helps keep children well-behaved. To them I say, some of the most mature and well-behaved kids I know have never been spanked. To them I question whether or not they felt calm or full of anger while spanking their child? Did they have to justify their actions due to lingering guilt? Did they feel as though it was the only way to gain control of their child? Fear.

I find it interesting how many adults can remember being hit by their parents. Specific memories from childhood that instilled so much fear the memory stuck.
What will the little girl remember about the Dixie Games? How much fun she had rolling around in someone’s wheelchair? Maybe. Her mom beating her? Most likely. I know my daughter won’t forget the incident. It was a harsh life lesson that allowed her to see the situation from a victim’s perspective.

I really don’t understand how spanking teaches children self-control or the ability to communicate one’s feelings to another. I see it as a method of instilling fear in hopes that it will prevent future unwanted behavior. To me it seems this will only work in the most sensitive of children. Anyone who feels differently I welcome your comments. I think it’s a good discussion topic especially since this incident took place in public.

Puerto Rico and 100th Post!

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  • Proud people eager to share their culture.
  • Under my feet, brick streets, Old San Juan.
  • El Yunque Rainforest, lush, wet, enchanting.
  • Reading on the beach, plump clouds hovering over aqua waves.
  • Tanned bodies scurrying, sun to rain to sun in minutes.
  • Ordering Mofungo surrounded by tourists venturing off their ship.
  • Rum! Free admission and free samples at the Bacardi Distillery.
  • In awe of the two fortresses, El Morro and San Cristobal.
  • Coque frogs sing through the night.
  • Once only a name, now an island memory and a longing to return to:

PUERTO RICO

http://www.saveagato.org/About_Us.html

31 Hours

It all started fourteen years ago with one question “Where’s the closest post office?” I was standing in the parking lot of, A Happy Beginning Nursery School wondering who this bubbly stranger was. Little did I know at the time but I had just met one of the most influential people in my life, a strong woman who has taught me about happiness, people, friendship and parenting. My dear friend, Elena.

There was an instant connection between the two of us and from that first meeting arose a group of friends organized by Elena, that we still lovingly call, “The Playgroup.” Back then we would meet at each other’s houses for lunch with all our toddlers and the children would play while the mom’s discussed everything from how to handle temper tantrums to future elementary schools.

We were all from varied backgrounds with different political and religious views but we shared one strong bond that connected us, our love for our children. Our children came first and we took our jobs as moms and one Mr. mom very seriously.

There were camping trips, holiday parties, game nights, countless birthday parties, singing at my grandmom’s nursing home, trips to the hospital to see our new arrivals, dancing lessons, biddy basketball games and an annual mom’s only, November weekend shopping trip. Each of us with our unique personalities would share a room at the Embassy Suites, Elena the social queen who made everyone feel special, Kelly, the logical money-wise math teacher who insisted we all tie our shopping bags with different colored yarn. That way we would know how to sort the bags when we returned home. Kim, always fashionable and witty, Jo, our friend from England, responsible and proper we loved to make her laugh, and me the youngest, I suppose they would say easy going, quiet, the watcher. Many times I found myself, cheeks burning, laughing hysterically next to Elena, hearing “What’s the matter Krista, did I embarrass you?”

As the years past our times together became less frequent. Life was busy. We still scheduled birthday dinners and game nights but our trips to the park, Imaginarium, and Lowry Park Zoo were now only memories.

Last September we decided it was time to revive our annual shopping weekend. Despite our reservations about, money, timing, or other activities, we scheduled our women’s weekend.

Friday November nineteenth, Elena, Kim and I packed our bags and headed for Tampa. The two hour drive felt like minutes and the uncontrollable laughter commenced when I managed to get us lost even with a GPS. The memories of all those women’s weekends came flooding back and I realized how much I missed this special time with my friends.

Friday night ended with the three of us chatting in our hotel room in our sweats at 10:30pm. Elena declaring that Saturday night would be the night we hit Ybor City and went bar hopping. Kim and I laughed.

Saturday morning I found myself listening to a long conversation between Elena and Jose, the man who made our omelets and Elena and Lynn, our waitress. Lynn was ready to come shopping with us but unfortunately had to work. Elena’s love of life and happiness is felt not only by her friends but by complete strangers.

After a full day of shopping we loaded the car with packages and Elena and I stood at the open trunk trying to figure out how take a picture and send it on my iPhone while Kim was already in the car tapping her watch “Let’s go ladies, it’s happy hour at Embassy Suites.”

We sat at our table in the lobby with our free drinks and chips realizing that our planned movie and excursion to Ybor City was merely ambitious thinking. We were having too much fun once again simply sitting, chatting and rediscovering the closeness we had shared for many years. Now, instead of elementary schools we were discussing colleges and future careers for our children.

Amidst our laughter, Kim’s cell phone buzzed and she casually picked it up to listen to her message. Phone in hand she said “My mom’s having a heart attack.” I watched her face and waited for the punchline. There was none. Her mom had left a breathless message from the ambulance. Instantly, our attitude changed from relaxed to emergency mode. I too had experienced the shock one phone call can bring and understood Kim’s panic. We did our best to ease her worries, packed our bags and headed for the hospital back home.

Later that night unable to sleep, I questioned what it was about our thirty one hours together that had me feeling such closeness to these two women. It had only been two months since we all shared dinner together. I came to the conclusion that it was in the simple act of making our friendship a priority above all else for an entire weekend. By spending time together we told each other that we were valued-our friendship and our past experiences were valued. Time. We took the time for one another. Thank goodness we did because Elena and I were able to be there for Kim and show her our concern when otherwise Kim, also a strong woman, would have handled everything on her own.

Kim’s mom is recovering in the hospital. Elena, Kim and I will never forget our weekend together. I am extremely grateful that I have been blessed with this playgroup of friends in my life. All of them have been my teachers, my listeners, my helpers in times of need, my guides, and most importantly, my family.

Fantasizing is Not Cheating

I’m talking donuts here. Big round chocolate covered donuts. I’ve been dreaming about them for days.

It all started back in August when Elle and I went to Illinois to the National Junior Disability Championship. We were lectured on the eating habits of athletes. Elle was told that if she wanted to be faster she was going to have to drop the pounds.

At that point, I was going to the gym several times a week and Elle was racing many miles a day. We both were in good shape. Rarely did we drink soda, we never ate fast food, meat was not in our vocabulary and I thought we were eating healthy.

Knowing her aspirations for a successful racing career, I said we would lose weight together. I remembered a trainer at the gym telling me to allow myself one day a week for sweets. He said I needed to shock my body and not let my body fall into a routine. I needed to change things up in order to see results. Well, my thinking then was, I work out so I can eat whatever I want.

I told Elle we were going to have sweets only once a week. I didn’t think this would be a big deal because we weren’t eating a lot of junk. Boy was I wrong! We came home, started our new diet and the first night after dinner I craved everything from mint chocolate chip ice-cream to potato chips. Technically chips weren’t sweets but I knew better and included my love for Cape Cod chips and tortilla chips in my sweets category.

For the first week, I had to have sugarless pudding just so the craving would subside. I looked with great anticipation to sweet day and started my morning with a Toblerone in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. Heaven! The day after sweet day, I would find myself staring into our pantry thinking, I didn’t want any stinking herbal tea to help calm me before bed. I wanted a giant banana split with gobs of chocolate sauce pooling in the bowl.

The first few weeks were tough and the scale only dropped two pounds. I was not happy. However, I did quickly realize how much sugar and junk food was actually in my diet. I had been under the illusion that I was eating well.

Then one morning after about a month of our new journey something wonderful happened. The scale dropped. A week after that I was at my lowest weight ever. I felt stronger, healthier and since it had been over five weeks my desire for sweets declined. In fact I ate less and less sugar on my official sweet days.

Arielle too has tasted success. She has dropped pounds and has become faster. This last 5K she completed she beat last year’s time by over three minutes.

We both feel that we accomplished the challenge of one day a week sweets so we have set our goal higher. I’m going for two weeks and she is going for three. So far, I’ve made it a week and a half but every time I drive by Dunkin Donuts….. MMMMM!

I had been content with the way I was. I never set out to change but life presented me with a challenge and I took it. I’m glad I did because I never would have known the strength I feel now. I would have continued with my habits not realizing what I could be. A door opened.

Yesterday, at the gym I found myself saying to an acquaintance-“I’ve always wanted to try those push-ups you do. I’m kind of afraid I won’t be able to do more than two.” I’ve watched him for months, prop his legs on a bench and do hundreds of push-ups-wondering if I could do the same. Little did I know he was a closet trainer. He had me doing sets of ten push-ups until I had reached one hundred. One hundred push-ups! I was hoping I could do four or five just so I wouldn’t embarrass myself. Soon I was getting a new lecture. This time it was about me not working hard enough at the gym. Apparently, I’m supposed to be in pain or there will be no gain. Today, I’m in pain! My shoulders are throbbing.

Monday, I’ll return for more push-ups and on the seventeenth I will enjoy a chocolate donut because I have discovered that the advice the first trainer gave me two years ago was correct. In order to see results, I must allow for change, even when I’m content.

Gold Star for AirTran Airways

“When you’re done screaming, pull the mask down over your nose and mouth and breathe normally.” What did he say? The entire plane was laughing and now listening to his every word on emergency airline procedures.

When I booked our tickets with AirTran I was uneasy. Traveling can be stressful; traveling with a daughter in a wheelchair can be extremely stressful. Too many times I have had to watch her cringe with embarrassment because even though I informed the airline online, called and asked several agents for help-the straight-back chair was not at the gate in time for boarding. Arielle would have to be rolled to her seat in front of a plane full of staring eyes. In fact after countless flights, there is one airline I will avoid. It is painfully obvious they have not trained their employees on the procedures of accessible travel.

Delta had always been my airline of choice, up until our last trip with them, they had a decent track record of making sure Arielle’s seat was accessible and the straight-back chair was available at the time of boarding.

Wheeling her racing wheelchair up to AirTran’s ticket counter, I put on my smile and felt my stomach churn. My mantra since I was two years old has been “I’ll do it myself.” I hate asking people for help even more than I hate asking for directions. This mantra has been challenged continuously since I’ve started traveling with the wheelchair. If the airline employees are stressed-I have learned to simply breathe and stay calm. The slightest remark can set them off as Arielle quickly learned when she tried to challenge the Delta ticket agent telling her it shouldn’t cost $200.00 to check her racing wheelchair. The woman insisted it was a bike-I nodded. Don’t mess with a stressed out ticket agent. I waited a few days, went back, and Delta gave us a refund.

The man at the AirTran counter looked at the racing wheelchair. This time I was ready. He called it, sports equipment, and was going to charge me an extra $70.00. “It’s like this… if she could run she would have packed a pair of sneakers for her race but since she can’t stand-she has this.” That was my reply, stolen from a conversation with my husband after the Delta incident. “I get it.” That’s all the man said and he called someone to come and pick up the wheelchair. I think he even smiled. First impression with AirTran-excellent.

Much to my delight, the entire trip with AirTran was exceptional. They made sure Arielle had an accessible seat, they had the straight-back chair available, they even made us laugh a second time when the comedian/flight attendant announced after landing “Be careful when opening the overhead bins… shift happens.”

Thank you, AirTran!

Road Trip Part II

Panera’s coffee can work wonders on a tired body. We sat for two hours drinking and planning our trip home. Seacrest Wolf Preserve is in Washington County, Florida and I have always wanted to go see their wolves. I called from Panera to see if they had any tours in the next two days. A kind man returned my call and we talked for twenty minutes about their wolves and all their programs open to the public. He suggested we make the trip in the fall when it’s cooler. I decided to take his advice. We left Greensboro around one and made it all the way to Jacksonville by dark.

http://www.seacrestwolfpreserve.org/

Here is a word of advice if you use Priceline to book your hotel rooms. Always check the date of arrival. It seems as though my mind was still a bit foggy when I booked our room in Jacksonville. I entered the wrong date. So when we arrived and I thought my hotel nightmares were behind me- I heard “I know why I can’t find your name-you’re booked for tomorrow.” At that point, after driving for seven hours, I wanted to cry. Fortunately, the woman took pity on us, changed the check in date and gave us a beautiful room with a swiveling flat screen TV. We sat, ate our bean burritos and watched Will Smith.

I don’t think my daughter will ever panic when she drives somewhere and gets lost. She is used to me always getting lost. For me, I think it all began when I was seventeen and on a People to People trip in London. I was the only one from my high school traveling with other students I didn’t know well. I took the underground to Piccadilly Circus with a group of girls. While shopping, a painting of Bob Marley caught my eye. I stopped. They didn’t. I was lost in London. I didn’t have the full name of my hotel or a phone number. All I knew was that my hotel had the name Elizabeth in it. I think I laughed, knew I would be okay, shopped and then found a taxi driver and asked him about hotels with the name Elizabeth. He called me a naughty girl for not having the address with me and then took me to the right hotel.

Of course I got lost while trying to find our first college tour. I stood outside squinting trying to read the street sign to the admissions lady on the phone, turn around and see my daughter’s already talking to a young man. Oh no-that was quick. Seems we were in front of a bus stop. He had finished with a theatre audition and his car wouldn’t start. He knew where the admissions office was. I knew I could take him if he tried anything funny. We piled in my car and he showed us where to go. I grilled him on his grade point average and declared major on the way. He was probably wishing he would have waited for the bus.

Both college tours were invaluable. Here is some helpful information about UF and FSU admissions:

1.FSU- 3.6-4.2 GPA /1730-1960 SAT/ 26-30 ACT

2.UF- recommends 4.2- 4.4/ SAT 1930 – 2060/ACT 29-31/ Have at least 20 total academic classes-

3. Take as many AP, IB and ACADEMIC Dual Enrollment classes as possible
4. (Very Important) Senior year: Take a lot of academic coursework- AP and academic Dual Enrollment- Do not let senioritis hit-continue to work hard- One of the colleges said 400 students who were originally accepted were turned away because of bad senior year grades- (college acceptance is tentative until the final transcript is received)

5. College essay should be all about what makes the student unique- It’s the personal interview on paper

6. Be very detailed on the application- If you work, list the hours- volunteer work-be specific- They want to know what students do when they’re not in school.

7. List all accomplishments, awards- Do not simply put Football 9-12 grade/ List things that make student unique

8. FSU gave us a list of bonus points applicants receive if they already have the basic requirements- The following will help give students the extra advantage to acceptance:
-Top 10% of your high school class-senior schedule has at least 5 core academic classes-9-11 grades have AP, IB and honors classes-9-12 they count how many AP, Honors and Dual Enrollment classes- 4 years of a foreign language- take calculus-1st generation college student-have a parent who attended FSU

Yesterday, my daughter told me she’s ready for college. Students were posting pictures of their decorated dorms on Facebook. While I’m not ready for her to go to college, I’m glad she’s excited. I can’t wait for our next tour. As for the Mountain Dew saving my life, well, I agree with the vendor I met at the rest stop- there’s a reason Mountain Dew is the best seller- 56 grams of caffeine! We made it home safe and sound.

K.D.Rausin


Road Trip – Part I

I am notorious for coming up with brilliant ideas and committing myself to them before ever really thinking it through or having a plan. I believe it comes from my desire to live life to its fullest and have as many unique experiences as possible while I’m here. This doesn’t mean I enjoy sky diving or bungee jumping. To me that’s just crazy. I hate the feeling of my stomach launching into my throat. I don’t need to tempt death in order to feel the presence and magic of life. I am capable of feeling alive simply by sitting on my lanai, drinking coffee and watching the sea gulls soar over our canal. But if I am set in one routine for too long, I have a yearning for change. This yearning led me to drive 2,200 miles in six days without a GPS.

A few weeks ago, I decided it would be fun to drive from my home in Cape Coral, Florida to Greensboro, North Carolina. I would stop and pick up my daughter at Charlotte airport along the way. She was flying in from Los Angeles after attending a film camp. We were invited to attend the USA Track and Field Junior Olympic Nationals. This was the first time they were allowing disabled athletes to participate. I felt that after all the advocating I had done last track season for my daughter, (Arielle) we should go and support the USATF for their steps in bringing wheelchair racing into the public eye. My husband gave me his calm knowing look – “If you really want to go-go, I don’t want to drive all that way.” After twenty years together he knows better than to try and get in the way of one of my great ideas. I realized it was slightly foolish to drive so many miles for a single afternoon race, so I added in some college tours on our way home. Road Trip!

Everything was fine until I reached Ocala. I was driving on a back road with Semi’s in front and behind me and cows to my left and right when my cheap unfamiliar cell phone rang. This cell phone was purchased by my daughter after her phone went for a swim. She couldn’t go to camp with the ugly phone, being the kind mother I am, I let her take mine. I hate talking on the phone while I’m driving. I usually don’t answer, but it was my son. “Mom, I’m still at camp. Dad forgot to pick me up and he’s not answering his cell phone.” I knew I should have called to remind my husband to pick up our son. I only reminded him about five times before I left and posted a note on the cupboard. My blood boiled. I had flashbacks to the time he left our daughter at school and a kind teacher brought her to her house for cookies and milk. (Thank you Mrs. Mince!)

I watch the road for large trucks that can crush me while I hit the star button about a hundred times on my cheap phone to try and unlock it. I dial my husband’s office. He left twenty minutes ago. I start to worry. What happened to him? If he didn’t get to our son then maybe he was in an accident. No, he’s fine. He’s probably stuck in traffic. I call Kai (my son) back. “Dad is on his way. Make sure he pays the late pick up fee.” Kai tells me the counselors have to go home. They’re going to drive him home. This made no sense. I knew they had after care until five and it was only four thirty. I hear laughing in the background. Eric gets on the phone. “Did you really think I would forget our son?”- “Yes!” Breathe, breathe, was this a lesson from the Universe? Ha ha, sure it’s easy to be peaceful when you’re driving alone in your car listening to Deepak Chopra and Sue Monk Kidd, now let’s see if you can keep that peace while driving with eighteen wheelers on a two lane back road, boiling mad and trying to use an unfamiliar cell phone. Enter the Peace Ruiner! (That’s my husband’s nick name) I gave him a little “ha, ha” knowing it was all just a prank. Maybe I passed the Universe test since I didn’t scream superlatives at him, when on the inside, I really wanted to. Is that passing?

I made it to Charlotte and picked up Arielle. We couldn’t find our hotel in Greensboro. It was late, dark, and hilly and the directions said to get off exit 107. There was no exit 107, there was 106 and 108 but 107 didn’t exist. I was too tired to drive any further. Realizing I had a future driver next to me, I thought it would be better to teach the lesson of staying safe and finding a new hotel, rather than pushing myself through exhaustion to find our destination. This is the point I realized it would have been smart to have purchased a GPS before I left.

The track meet was a wonderful experience. We have some very talented athletes across the United States. I felt my stomach flip, watching them at their starting lines waiting for the pop of the gun. Too much pressure, I could never do that. Many people in the crowd were curious about the wheelchair race and we were greeted by a group of athletes and their parents who were excited to see us and my daughter’s racing chair. It gave me hope for a future where disabled athletes will be accepted as members on high school sports teams throughout America – not just certain states.

Half of my great idea mission was complete. Now, it was on to the college tours. There were only a few minor problems. I didn’t have any directions for the way home, I didn’t have any hotels booked, I did have two huge infected blisters on my feet and my stomach was acting up from eating too much junk food. Also it was Saturday night and I had been driving with little rest since Thursday morning. I was tired. The wonderful thing about having a daughter who is paralyzed is that I can’t complain. I watch her strength in tackling every day issues without the ability to move her legs and it makes me stronger. How can two blisters and an upset stomach even compare? I’m lucky. I got a good night’s sleep and a large cup of coffee at Panera. We sat with my laptop and together we planned our trip home. Part II – How Mountain Dew saved my life… coming soon!

K.D.Rausin

Letting Go

Letting Go

“What you resist persists.” Carl Jung

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel with a close friend to Tallahassee to visit her daughter at FSU music camp. It had been a long time since we traveled together over a weekend. When our children were little we would take Christmas shopping trips to the other coast. We would escape one weekend every summer for a special trip that included wine, shopping, and relaxing in the sun in place of cooking, laundry, and Disney movies. Those times we shared helped cement our friendship. We spent hours discussing our roles as wives and mothers. So when the opportunity arose to spend time with my friend, I knew it was much needed. Just as a marriage and children need nurturing so does friendship.

This was an easy trip. My objective was simply to be a friend and go along for the ride. That’s what I did and I discovered the magic of letting go. I had no plans, no desires, no pre conceived notions of how the trip should turn out. I simply plopped my suitcase in the back, offered a piece of morning chocolate to my friend and off we went. Nine hours later I was staring at the FSU campus and all the beautiful oak trees and hills that surrounded it.

We walked into the residence hall where all the musical campers stayed. There we stood amongst hundreds of high schoolers chatting, listening to their iPods, banging on dorm doors and carrying large boxes of pizza. It was a chaotic mess that screamed of happiness and independence. We breathed and tip toed around the building knowing we were old intruders in their new world.

The next day I sat and listened to a concert. The campers I had seen running through the halls, dressed in shorts and tee-shirts transformed before my eyes into ladies and gentleman dressed in black and white performing difficult movements from classical music they had learned in one week. I was amazed. Two and half hours sailed by.

Soon we were in the car driving five hours to our next destination, Tampa. We arrived at our hotel tired and hungry, but it was the 4th and we knew we couldn’t pass up a fire works display at Channelside. Not knowing what to expect, we walked the short distance from our hotel to the Channelside shops. It was shoulder to shoulder people. We slipped inside a restaurant and we were immediately seated next to a giant window overlooking the water. Below us, we could see crowds of people waiting along the water’s edge. Within seconds, the fireworks began. It was the greatest fireworks display I had ever seen. My friend commented that everything just seemed to work on our trip…no stress…just perfect timing. Perhaps it was in our letting go and enjoying every step of our journey that allowed us to have three perfect stress free days of friendship, family, and laughter. Now I must take that lesson and apply it to my daily life, even when the laundry piles up,the house is a mess, we need groceries, and my teenager is going away to camp for the first time…far away! “Breathe….let go….trust.”- Feel the joy of every day.

K.D.Rausin

Leadership or Lack there of…

Did you ever get so mad that you felt as though you couldn’t breathe, let alone speak? I felt that way last night after receiving a waiver from the People to People organization regarding my daughter’s participation in their leadership conference at Columbia University. Here is a section of the waiver. Now, imagine advocating on behalf of your child for almost a year and sending emails, videos, a doctor’s note, all in an effort to show them that your child is perfectly capable of participating in a teen leadership conference. Finally, with just a few weeks left before camp begins…you get this to sign. (oh.. and the cost of one camper: well over two thousand dollars plus airfare)

c. It is agreed that if at any time during the course of the Tour, Ambassador,
in its absolute and sole discretion, decides that Arielle is unable to participate in Tour activities,
and/or has interfered with the experience or enjoyment of any other participant or attendee of the
Tour due to her inability to participate in Tour activities or otherwise, Arielle will be immediately sent home at her family’s/guardian’s own expense, without liability or obligation to Ambassador.

This is a national organization that is responsible for teaching our children leadership skills? Prejudice: Irrational intolerance of or hostility toward members of a certain race, religion, or group.

K.D.Rausin

Our trip to Europe

http://www.christopherreeve.org/site/c.mtKZKgMWKwG/b.4594525/k.2192/Compassion_in_Action__Tell_Us_Your_Story.htm


“Eiffel Tower… sure… walk this way.”

  “Why won’t he ask for directions?”




“Pack light for our trip to Europe… check!”

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Picture book reviews, reviews of books with pictures, and pictures of books!

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