Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Leo's Gift

The last posting of the year... Leo is really Robert, but he's Leo on Facebook.

Leo called me on Sunday and after we talked for awhile, he said, "Beth, I'd like to give you my Spinergys." Spinergys are racing tires. Leo let me borrow them when I made the climb up to Vail this past summer, because he was recovering from surgery, and they made the climb easier because they weigh almost nothing. When I went to visit him and pick them up, he also coached me on how to make it up Vail. There's a part coming out of Copper, he said, and you have to get momentum going for it. And the hardest part is right at the top, where the switchbacks are.

You see, the Spinergys are not the gift. Leo, or Robert, is the gift. We met one summer handcycling. He was at a handcycle camp where I/we climbed Montezuma (the picture on this blog) the summer before Vail. He made it up way before me. But he waited at the top with 2 other friends. And I made it! We biked at Leadville together. Then he found one of my Montezuma pictures on Facebook (of us at the top) and we became Facebook friends. At some point we learned we both went to great, small liberal arts colleges, we both majored in math, and at some point did some programming for work.

I saw Leo in the hospital after a back surgery and then during his recovery at home. And then he started handcycling again!

Our last ride together was in the fall, at Bear Creek State Park. Big group ride with a long and short option. I started the long route and had no idea where I was. Leo rode with me. We had our own route--it was kind of like riding with your brother and just talking, not pushing. And he knew I was having shoulder problems and was somehow making sure I didn't push too hard, that I turned around at the right time, and that kind of thing.

So I got this great gift--Leo. I appreciate the tires and will use them. I would rather ride with him than know he can't ride. I hope the tires last. But the better gift is Leo and that friendship. I hope that lasts.

So, a prayer for Leo--that he makes it through the coming challenging months; that the pain he has passes; that the friendship between us continues; and that he finds another time to give me some coaching.

God helping us muddle through it all, and finding true friends for us along our many adventures. I do believe that. To end the year, thanks be to God.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Different and unexpected

It must be between semesters and I'm randomly posting thoughts coming to mind more frequently... This stream of thoughts is hard to clarify. But it's mine in this random blog, so that's how it will be.

Christmas was wonderful--to have family here in a fairly relaxed environment; to see everyone and talk with everyone; to see Lori's excitement at the day. Two years ago I was getting better; a year ago my mom was undergoing chemo; this year brought something unexpected, though it shouldn't have been.

I think once I had MS, I somehow developed an assumption that nothing was going to happen to anyone else because MS had happened to me. That's probably because I was young, knew no one else with a disability, and didn't have parents that I considered old at all. To me, my parents were never going to age.

The last few years has changed my strange assumption that nothing is going to happen to anyone else. One friend of mine has ALS; another friend with a spinal cord injury has complications from that; many other friends with disabilities struggle with different things; and now my godmother has Alzheimers. It makes me think of a training exercise I obnoxiously disputed, where a group of us was given four disabilities and made to choose one we would "prefer" and the one we would least like to have. At the time I thought that was awful, because while it pointed to the bad assumptions people have about different disabilities; more evident was that it made people with those disabilities feel horrible.

Now I have a another thought which was only in the periphery then. We don't get to choose what we or a family member hsa. We may get something and somehow God helps us and our loved ones muddle through it.

I knew my godmother has Alzheimers as I was the first outside their immediate family to ask if something was happening. I had seen some deterioration. But I did not expect to see her this time with it unclear if she knew it was Christmas, who I was, and having difficulty knowing whether to use the spoon or knife. For some reason, this was striking, and brought me back to that "What would you prefer?"

And to that, I now think what I need to point to is that we don't get to choose. What is better is to talk about what each person may need for support, how best families and friends can help, and how those who act as caregivers can receive support.

I see my godmother and know that her husband is perhaps the best support person she can have. But I wonder if he is getting the support he needs, and that also depends on what he wants. I think we all need to talk more about this--we need to get past classifying people and focus on individuals.

With the new year coming, maybe I can turn some of my efforts to this. I know God helps us muddle through it all. But can we help those who "muddle" (I guess this includes me), realize the resources available to them and they don't have to muddle alone? I think God is behind some of this, and can give greater support if people aren't in things alone. It takes a village... a village in constant motion... a village that never really stops or reaches an ending point.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Looking back, looking forward

Maybe I dwell on things a bit too much, but maybe it's ok to do that a bit, to look back, to look forward...

Looking back, I suppose I dwell on the depression phenomena that happened a few years ago, but maybe that's because it was so impactful, it was something that had never happened, it was something I never understood in others, and now I feel I have some tiny bit of understanding. I won't dwell on my mom and her battle with breast cancer, but I will look back on it, briefly. And then I move forward.

Two years ago (is that right?) I was coming back from depression. It hit because of a strange mix of steroids for MS and me thinking I could stop taking another medicine because I was taking steroids. Bad decision! Anyway, the depression hit right around the beginning of Advent and by Christmas, I was getting better. But I was still feeling this strange sense of being fragile. Lori (my daughter) and I went to the Nutcracker with my friend and her daughter. My friend had experienced post-partum depression, so she seemed to understand this strange feeling of being fragile. Yesterday, Lori and I went to the Nutcracker again, without me feeling fragile. We had a wonderful time and I thought back to a few years ago, when going to that show was totally different. I love the Nutcracker. Looking forward, I hope there are many more years of it being this great experience, where Lori and I are both captured by the magical moments brought to us from the stage.

Looking back, a year ago my mom was undergoing chemo and she was feeling a kind of fragile, where she couldn't stand a lot of noise. So she and I had our own little Christmas celebration with no noise, just the 2 of us. Looking forward 2 days, there will be about 10 people at my house, and my mom will be there and not feeling fragile. She's my rock and last year was tough. This year is so special because of her.

Looking back--there were also good times, but there were some really hard times. Looking forward seems better. I have myself back, and I have my mom back. Maybe to get this great sense of moving forward I have to look back. Thanks be to God for looking forward and, of course, for so much more.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Yesterday was my first day back skiing for the season--season #8. Before I left I was worried because truly things are chaotic at work; life has been busy at home; I have not had time to get ready for Christmas; and I have not had time to experience Advent the way I want to experience it. But off I went.

Amazingly, I left work behind. I only had brief thoughts of work all day. And I wheeled into the ski office that I love, where I feel accepted, where I drop my disability at the door and consider my abilities. As much as I try to give, I really feel like the people up there give, give, and give more, and they love it. Somehow it is rewarding to them. We are "average" people there and find it funny to observe the people who wear designer ski outfits, and come down the hill, out of controlr, yelling, "help me!!!!!!!!" I roll into the ski office and everyone says hello and seems so happy to be there. That is giving. I give, but I wish I could give like that--loving every moment of it.

The day was successful--my best first start. And that was through giving. My ex-track coach, Jean Ann, once said "you could have won that race. You know that, right?" And there I was on the slope, struggling with self-confidence that can plague me. And Jean Ann, who I think of often as she struggles with ALS, came into my mind. I didn't win that race, but I CAN make it down these slopes without panicking. It is possible. As Jean Ann's shirt for raising funds says, "All things are possible." And so I did it--turned things around and found some confidence.

Thanks be to God for all the good people do. It makes the world a better place. Help me to do as much good as I can.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hope brought back Beth

It has been 2 years since the first Wed Advent service when I realized it was time to ask for help. It was the first time I got help--at church a presence reached out and just held me there. And things weren't getting better--they were worse. I had been on steroids for an MS attack and the mix of that with everything else caused a severe depression.

Thoughts I remember:
- crying all the way to work, all the way home, and any timee I was alone
- hiding this from everyone
- wondering when I would feel like myself again
- calling my brother and asking him when I might get better again
- feeling that each day was so long and wondering how I would get through each and every day.
- starting medicine, going home, sitting in my garage and wondering whether to end everything and then deciding to see if the new meds might start working in a few days
- blankly staring at a lot

Going to church worked, the new medicine worked, I realized that so many people cared so much for me once I told them what was happening. There was hope.

God--seeing me through yet another thing, holding me ... thanks be to God.

And we enter another Advent season where I am myself again, life is not perfect, but I am happy to be me.