Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Disney Cruise

Not to make everything about me, but Terra Nova High School's Back to School night was the hardest two hours of my life! That was my thought after the first hour. That has got to be one of the most inaccessible school campuses in the world. One way to have someone with limited mobility really feel disabled is to force them to cross a high school campus, including a trip in the dark over uneven pavement, in the time allotted for healthy teens to make the same journey. We gave up for period 4; Abby went with her dad and I sat on a wet bench, alone, and talked to you!

I don't know what the answer is, but trying to fit in with normal, healthy people isn't it. I made it to the rest of her classes, going home completely exhausted at the end of the night. 

Someone told me recently that if I'm upset and can't get out of a funky mood, I should "change the channel." I call it a change of "internal scenery." 

Here goes:

Walt Disney said, "If you can dream it, you can do it."

I've been thinking about going to Disneyland a lot lately. On our last trip, about six months before my surgery, the three of us splurged with a stay at the Grand California Hotel, which has a private entrance into California Adventure theme park. We had a great time on that trip, and given the drastic change in my health that shortly followed, I was glad we had our adventure at the "happiest place on Earth." 

I would LOVE to go to Disneyland again! The cool part would be that I would get a "get out of jail free" pass; a handicapped pass that I could use to get out if waiting in lines. If you've been to Disneyland in the past 10 years, it's like having an unlimited fast pass. Zooming through lines at Disneyland is very efficient. 

I'm also becoming obsessed with the idea of going on a Disney cruise. I was the Naturalist on an Alaskan Cruise the summer before my surgery. I loved giving presentations in the theatre with my PowerPoint slides towering behind me. I loved walking around the ship, talking to people about the whales we were seeing. 

When I picture myself on a cruise now, it's a very different image. I'd have to go as a regular, paying guest. I'd have to bring a wheelchair to make walking around the towns possible. On the other hand, the wheelchair-accessible staterooms look REALLY nice!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lottery Winner?

I logged on to the SuperLotto Plus website to check my lottery ticket numbers, knowing I would lose. As I pulled the ticket out of my wallet, I knew that none (or maybe one) of the numbers would match up. I knew I would lose. Even as that negative, "I know I'm going to lose" thought went through my head, in the very back of my mind was the thought that if I DID win, I'd be able to say in interviews how I thought I'd lose for sure.

While we were dreaming about winning, we, of course, talked about what we would do with millions of dollars. Trips to New York on a private jet to see Wicked on Broadway topped the kid's list, while a cruise to Alaska topped mine. Make that a Disney cruise to Alaska and everyone's happy!

Then we got altruistic and talked about how we would help others with the money. Scholarships for kids to go on school-sponsored trips topped that list. As a middle-income family, we do not qualify for many financial programs that are available. If we won the lottery, I'd like to help families like ours achieve their goals.

Now, in the wake of the San Bruno explosion, I would also help families to rebuild their dreams. For those of you who don't know, a community in San Bruno, less than a mile from Skyline College, was engulfed in a gas-fueled fire last week. The scene looked like a blow torch was coming out of the sidewalk. Several people died and many more were injured. Homes were lost, and stories of people literally running for their lives abounded. One of my students lost a close friend; others lost their homes, or hosted friends who lost homes. They started contacting me within hours of the tragedy, explaining why they couldn't come to class or turn in a pending assignment. Taking the time to contact your teacher in the midst of a crisis? That's dedication!

I wish I had some words of wisdom for these people, but in truth they don't need words--they need action. On my end, I will do everything possible to protect their education. Winning the lottery would help, but in the meantime I can offer compassion, understanding, and time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Raindrops on roses and whispers on kittens. Don't you just love Mary Poppins? I know, I know--that song is from The Sound of Music, but those two movies are inextricably connected.

My daughter's having her wisdom teeth pulled right now, and I was going to sing that song to her, but I didn't want to punish her. It's going to be a long day, but maybe with a spoonful of sugar, we'll make it!

I had mine out just before my sophomore year at college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We had a week before classes started when we had to be on campus to register. We had to walk around to different buildings to register; we didn't know if the class we wanted was available until we read the posted sign. Anyway, I went to Madison for Reg Week, with swollen cheeks and a painful mouth. Since Reg Week in Madison was really "Party" Week, I used wine as well as Advil to dull the pain!

Abby made it through the first 24 hours without too many incidents. I'll never drink a chocolate shake again after watching what she did to hers, but that's about it. We also discovered that she does NOT like vicadin, but thankfully Advil did the job. After seeing her friends for a little while this afternoon, she had a milkshake for dinner and called it a night. 

The most touching moment on this little adventure came last night. Abby was planning to sleep downstairs on the couch because the doctor told her it would be better for her to sit up a bit. I don't move up and down stairs quickly, so Abby knew she'd be pretty much alone after I went to bed. Andy offered to sleep downstairs with her. Abby looked at him like he gave her the greatest gift in the world! Before YOU get all teary-eyed, Andy said he would sleep downstairs IF they watched what he wanted to watch on TV! It was a sweet moment while it lasted. They both ended up getting something--Abby had company and Andy got a free pass to sleep downstairs and watch TV. I'm sure they both thought of their favorite things!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall: who’s the fairest one of all? Not me! And probably not you! Ok, maybe YOU!
I started a new research project this week to further explore exercises that are beneficial to brain-injured people. In this study, participants put their weaker hand into a box that has a mirror on the side. They then do various hand exercises, observing their “good” hand in the mirror as they move their fingers. This tricks their brain into thinking that their weak hand is adequately performing the tasks. This activity, as well as other exercises we do in the Adaptive Physical Education class, is designed to reprogram our brains.
Reprogram our brains? That sounds weird. We are not being brainwashed. The human brain is capable of reorganizing neural pathways based on new experiences. This is called brain plasticity.
Mirror, Mirror is being done alongside Wii-hab, which is entering its second semester. Biology students are running both projects. Although brain rehab strategies is quickly becoming my area of expertise, I’m still a marine biologist and try to “keep my feet wet” when possible.
For example, the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce asked me to help plan their new window display showcasing the local marine environment. While I’m not really in the market for more volunteer work, I couldn’t possibly say no to this opportunity to be creative while thinking about fish! The current display includes a fully-articulated sea lion skeleton. This skeleton,on loan from another organization, is being moved, hence the need for a makeover.
I’m still figuring out how to get students involved in the project. It’s a fantastic opportunity for an aspiring marine biologist!