Thursday, May 26, 2011

The "D Word" Dilemma

I remember when I first started college. My first year did not live up to the hype of "the best years of your life". The first time I stepped on UR's campus as a prospective student, I immediately felt at home and knew I wanted to spend the next four years of my life there. I applied early decision because I was so certain it was the right college for me. But, the first year was rough. It did not feel like home. I longed for home. I wanted to be known. Leaving behind a place where I was comfortable and popular was awkward.

Time and time again, I would call up one of my close friends who lived down there. It was refreshing to talk to her because she knew me. "Where are you from?" "What do you like to do?" "Why do you walk with canes?" were not questions she asked me. There was no need to ask these questions because she already knew the answers. It was exhausting to answer those same questions over and over for what seemed like 3000 times!

Now, I find myself feeling that way again. Despite my discouraging past experiences with online dating, I think it's time to give it another shot! My life is meant to be shared and I can't wait to find my teammate! I like to refer to my future husband as my "teammate for life".

Embarking on the online dating adventure is reminiscent of my freshman year of college. The purpose of the online profile is to describe yourself to people who do not know you. Describing myself seems like a simple yet complex request. I cleave to the longing to be known once again. I've been down the road of dating friends (the known) and so far it's turned out to be a dead end. So, here I am, trying another route.

I need your help.

Do I mention my disability in my profile?

To be honest, I am torn. That's why I am asking you. I don't see myself with a disability so I would not include it. However, it is blatantly obvious to the naked eye. Here are some suggestions I've been given:

1. Do not include it. Let him get to know me. If he is still turned off by my disability after I explain it to him, he is not the one for me.  -- I like this approach, but I don't want to come across like the masked man on "The Bachelorette". I wear my heart on my sleeve and don't have anything to hide. I don't want to give the appearance that I do.

2. Don't include anything about my disability in my profile, but add a photo of me with my canes.

3. Briefly describe it.

4. Briefly describe it and include photos that show I can live a normal life...skiing, driving, traveling.

What do you think? Any other suggestions? Which approach is best?

Thanks for helping me out. I sincerely value your opinion.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A reason to watch "The Bachelorette"

As if I really needed a reason! But this time, I actually KNOW one of the contestants! 
BEN CASTORIANO! He and I were in the class of 2004 at University of Richmond. While Ben and I were not good friends, UR is a small enough school that everyone knows everyone.  He also dated one of my sorority sisters for awhile so I saw him at DG socials quite a bit. I know him to be a really nice guy. Rumor is he gets pretty far with Ashley. I am avoiding Reality Steve because I want to waste 2 hours every Monday night following his journey. "The Bachelor/Bachelorette" and I have this love/hate relationship.  It's difficult for me to understand why anyone would want to be on that show. The blatant competiton for a date/proposal; the challenge to get to know somebody in a matter of weeks who you are theoretically meant to be with forever; the PDA - making out "in front of" millions of Americans! The superficiality of it all is what I hate. Although, it sucks me in. I continue to watch what, in most cases, ends up being a train wreck week after week. This season will be no different. Ben, I'll be rooting for you.

In other reality tv news, here are my picks:

"Celebrity Apprentice"
John Rich
He has been a class act throughout the course of the show and deserves to win!

"Dancing with the Stars"

Hines Ward
Hines has a reputation for playing dirty on the field. On the dance floor, he has a heart of gold and some quick feet. Here's hopin' he takes home that mirror ball trophy!

"American Idol"
Lauren Alaina
At the begining of the show I was not a fan, but as the weeks have gone by, I've enjoyed watching her grow. James was my favorite and I think Scotty will be successful regardless of the outcome. It's time for a girl to win, so let's go Lauren!

And, lastly, on Wednesday, we have to say goodbye to the talk show legend. It's been a good 25 years. Thanks for making me laugh, cry, dance, learn, explore, and, in some cases, appreciate life more. You didn't give me a Harpo Hookup, but it's OK, Oprah. I still enjoyed your show.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Who are your water boys?

What does it mean to be a true friend? This blog post got me thinking. In today's society, we use the term "friend" rather loosely.  At last check, I have 825 friends on Facebook.  My best friend dubs me the unofficial mayor of Alexandria because whenever she and I are out together, without fail, we run into someone I know! But out of all of the connections I have made in my life, how many of those people are true friends?
I am a huge sports fan. And, while not every person you'd call a friend in your life will fit into these two categories, to me, it makes sense. Think of a professional football team playing in a game. Behind every team are the fans. With every team are the water boys.
There are different types of fans. We all know the die hard fans. Some might call them fanatics. They support their team no matter what. In their eyes, their favorite team can do no wrong. Then there are the fair-weather fans. Those who jump on the bandwagon when the team has a winning season, but as soon as the team starts to struggle, they fade away into the background.
Nobody ever really thinks about the water boys. In actuality, they play an important role. The water boys are down on the sidelines with the team. They choose to be there. They are not obligated (they probably don't even get paid. I don't know.) Such a position provides them a unique perspective. The water boys are right beside the players and coaches as they experience the ups and downs of the game. The triumphs, challenges, tears, high fives...the reaction and emotions associated with the outcome of the game. The water boys also provide the most important thing - water. No matter how talented, skilled, or determined a player you are, you will not make it through an entire game without water! Water keeps you going and allows you to play at your best. Yes, each professional player could fill their own water bottle and search for it when he comes off the field, but it is nice and comforting to know that someone is there for them when they need the water most.
A true friend is one that who helps you grow. One who challenges, encourages, enriches and strengthens you. A true friend is with you as you think through something and (to continue with my analogy) play the game called life. This does not mean they always agree with you. A true friend is not a fanatic. S/he is not afraid to confront you when they feel you may be going off course. A true friend is not a fair weather fan either. No need to fear them jumping off the bandwagon when you have a losing season. A true friend is analogous to a "water boy" - One who is with you during the struggles, the triumphs and the plateaus. One who has made the choice to be there no matter how the game is going.

At any professional football game, there are thousands of fans, but only a few water boys. I have 825 friends/"fans" on Facebook, but only a small number of those are "water boys".

Who are the water boys in your life?

*Christians would say that Jesus is the truest friend. As a Christian myself,  I couldn't agree more. It is not often that I (or most people) take time to seriously think about what makes a true friend, a true friend. The qualities of a true friend are also the qualities of Jesus.  When you strive to be a true friend, you become more like Jesus.

PS: Yes, I know the team does not have the same water boys every game.  For the purposes of this analogy, ignore that part.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Perfectly Human: Skiing

My friend, Amy Julia Becker, asked me to be a guest blogger and write a post for the "Perfectly Human" portion of her blog. "This weekly feature is intended to provide a picture of life with a disability in all its possibilities and limitations, gifts and struggles"(Becker). My first post for Amy Julia sparked my interest in started my own blog. She recently asked me to write a post that detailed my adventures in skiing. In case any of you were interested in more details of my skiing experience, here is what I contributed to the Perfectly Human weekly feature.
For years, I attended a ski trip hosted by a Christian organization. I didn't go skiing. In fact, I never made it to the mountain. But the day after my 29th birthday, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I was 40 (30 seemed far too close) and somehow learning to ski made it close to the top of the list. Many of my friends were discussing ski weekends they were planning for the winter and I didn't want to miss out! I started exploring adaptive ski programs and found one in Killington, VT where my friends had planned to go.

Prior to my trip, I went to Ski Chalet and purchased all of the garments necessary to keep me warm. The morning I woke up to go skiing my friends laughed as I piled on layer upon layer. When I arrived at the lodge, I was greeted by my instructor, John. He handed me goggles, found a helmet to fit my head, and the two of us headed off to get fitted for my ski boots and skis. It was a struggle to finagle my feet into those boots. Once they were on, I had to learn how to walk and balance myself at the same time. I likened the walk in ski boots to that of when I have orthopedic surgery and my doctor requires I wear a cam walker boot. The difficulty walking paled in comparison to the pride I felt that I looked just like every other skier in the lodge. I even had my own skis!

John and I headed out on the snow. I had a couple of options. The first was to have skis on my feet but use outriggers as my ski poles. These outriggers were the same height as my canes and had little skis on the bottom of them. I thought this would work out well because it would be similar to how I walk with canes (just on snow). But it didn't work out as I had hoped. My right leg naturally turns in a little bit causing me to cross my skis. That option was out. A second option was to use this device similar to a walker, but still have normal skis on my feet. Again, crossing my skis prevented this from being the most viable option. The last and best option was a bi-ski. A bi-ski is a sit ski with a bucket seat and two skis that can be used independently and with hand held outriggers. The bi-ski also has a handle at the back, allowing someone to push you down the mountain if necessary. Since my arms are strong but my legs are weak, the bi-ski was the most realistic option.

After getting situated in the bi-ski and adjusting the outriggers, John began to fasten the straps. A strap across my feet, two across my chest, a few across my waist...I wondered how I was going to be able to move, but somehow I could. My arms were free to use the outriggers and although the straps were tight, I was comforted to know that if I fell, I was not going anywhere! John pushed me up to the lift, lifted me on, and up the mountain we went to begin training on the bunny slope. I felt SO cool on the lift. I was a real skier sharing in the same experience everyone was having that day. Just because I had a disability didn't make me different. Yeah, I sat down to ski, but that didn't bother me. Other than that, my experience was the same as my fellow skiers.

We exited the lift and practiced on the bunny slope. I got used to using the outriggers and even wiped out one time. I tipped over but didn't hurt my body at all thanks to the straps! After a morning of practice, I was good enough to head to the green trails. At the mountain top, John guided me (by holding onto the handle of the bi-ski) and yelled instructions on which outrigger to use as we skied down the mountain.
"Sharp left, sharp right, keep your outrigger out and down on the snow," he yelled. I sliced through the powder and made it to the bottom. It felt amazing to have accomplished something I never thought I could do. I was no longer hanging out in the lodge. I was out on the snow with everyone else. I loved it, and by the end of the day, I had made plans to return to the mountain again.

My second trip to Pico, I felt comfortable and confident. I knew that I could ski. This time we went straight to the blue trails. Thankfully, John was guiding me because it was icy and we were smokin' down the mountain! We ran the blue trails all day long. The next day when I returned home, I was sore. SO sore. Every joint and muscle on my left side hurt. My body reeked of menthol. I used up every ounce of hot water in the house, soaking in the tub, trying to ease the aches and pains. But it was all so worth it. While I needed a little assistance to accomplish my goal of learning to ski, I did it. I no longer let my disability confine me to the lodge. My perseverance and determination launched me to the top of the mountain, down, and of course, right back up again!


Friday, May 6, 2011

Show Us Your Life: Favorite Vacation Spots

My fellow blogger friends often participate in Kelly's Korner Show Us Your Life Fridays and this time I decided to join in on the fun! I LOVE to travel and have been fortunate to go to a number of places around the world. My absolute favorite vacation was my 3 week trip to Italy with my family, but that trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity! When I think of a favorite vacation spot I think of one I have returned to a number of times: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. My family and I have been to PCDR four times and have always had a wonderful time.
One of the best parts of the vacation is walking down the steps of the airplane and feeling the balmy breeze hit you in the face. This is so welcoming because typically when we go we leave behind 20 degrees and fly into 80 degrees. Paradise!
Three times I have stayed at Melia Caribe Tropical, but this last time, I stayed at RIU Palace Punta Cana. The Melia Caribe is a larger resort than RIU Palace. Melia Caribe also has a better kids program. However, if you are just looking for a little R&R, the RIU Palace is the way to go!
The grounds and the pool were absolutely beautiful. I am not a big drinker, but when a pool boy comes and offers me a margarita at 10am, I'll take it! The pool also had these cement lounge chairs built inside the pool. I enjoyed many an hour sunbathing in the water. While the cement can cause your butt to hurt after awhile, I recommend giving these a try.

I am a beach bum so I spent way too many hours here:

If you are interested in getting up out of the lounge chair and doing something active, all non-motorized water sports are free. You can also go parasailing, jet skiing (one of my faves) or explore underwater in this contraption called a Scubadoo. I, unfortunately, wanted to try the Scubadoo, but thanks to a tsunami warning, that was out of the question! Venturing outside the resort, the all day tour on the monster truck is a blast and a must for all island visitors. Climb aboard the monster truck and venture all over the island all day long - trample through the mountains, cross rivers, tour a school and a house, tour a fruit grove, enjoy lunch and float the river. When I travel I like to pretend I am a local and take in as much of the culture and authenticity of the place I am visiting as I can. While riding around in a monster truck screams tourist, I felt as if this tour gave me a good idea of life on the island.

After you return to the hotel worn out from the daily adventures, enjoy dinner at one of the five restaurants. It's wise to send someone out early in the morning to stand in the reservation line for the restaurants. You can visit the buffets without an issue, but if you are interested in a sit-down restaurant, reservations are required. My favorite restaurant was the French restaurant, but I was thrilled to try out the Brazilian bbq too.

Sand between my toes. Miami Vice in my hand. Gaze fixed on the ocean. Sun beaming down. I can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stop going to the buffet

I have never really been a big fan of buffets. A buffet can be good because it gives you the opportunity to try a variety of foods. Most of the time, however, I overflow my plate with foods I think I might like or I take too much food and mindlessly move my fork to my mouth without ever really savoring any of the flavors. I practically roll out of the restaurant disappointed because nothing was really worth the calories.

As a single gal, sometimes I feel bombarded with dating options or advice. There are the friends who try to play matchmaker, but if asked why the two of us would make a good match the response is "You're both single." Fail. The blind date that spends all of dinner counting the number of my sorority sisters he has dated. So, are you trying to make your way through my entire chapter? What a stud you are! The online dating sites - I've tried a bunch. One match: a blind pilot. Above and beyond racking my brain as to how someone can be blind and a pilot, I decide to close this match. If ever his walking aid and my canes accidentally got tangled, a collision could result. That wouldn't be pretty! How about the 27 year old Metro train operator with a 12 year old son...Yeah, you do the math. Insta-family? No thanks. Or, the guy who wanted to get married after the fourth date. I don't accept a marriage proposal if I don't even know your birthday or your middle name! He and I parted ways. (He was engaged 2 months later to another woman.) I am not really a bar person, but you gotta give everything a shot once! I've forced myself to go to social events because "You never know who you'll meet" resounds in my head like clanging cymbals!

All of these are viable dating options and one of these methods has worked for a number of people. As I get older and try all of these options over and over, I've come to learn I come up empty when I try to meet as many people as I can and don't take time to focus my efforts - to think about what is really important to me in a lasting relationship. I'm just "filling my plate" at the buffet.

The truth is I want to be married to my best friend - a person who not only enjoys doing everything (and nothing) with me but also shares my values and beliefs. A family man who fits in with my family and welcomes me into his as if I had always been there. A love that is not based on that "butterfly feeling", but one that is deeply rooted in commitment. One where we can be ourselves, trust, and tell each other everything. I know what I am looking for and I pray everyday that God will reveal my husband to me. I may already know him or he may be somewhere waiting and praying for me too.

My advice to myself and my single friends (guys and gals) is this: It's time to be purposeful. It's time to stop going to the buffet!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I remember

....that day in September 2001 when the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
....the fear I felt not knowing if my dad was dead or alive because he went back and forth to the Pentagon quite often.
....the gaping hole in the 5 sided building that was draped with an American flag.
....the patriotism and the way Americans came together to support each other in a hurting nation.
....starting my job at the Pentagon and sitting alongside colleagues who had been in the attacks.
....praying at the Pentagon chapel for the fallen colleagues who once served our country at the same agency where I now work.
....sitting on the bleachers outside the Pentagon participating in the September 11th memorial dedication ceremony.
....numerous conversations with one of my bosses who was the only survivor in his office during the September 11th attacks on the Pentagon. He went to the bathroom and was the only one not killed. He helped to rescue the victims.
....the day Saddam Hussein was killed.
....the day Osama bin Laden was dead.

And I will never forget.  

Thank you to all who serve. God bless America.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Royal Wedding

I got up at 4:45am. This was only 45 minutes earlier than my normal wake up time on a weekday, but somehow it felt a lot earlier. Maybe it was because I was so excited for Kate and Will to finally walk down the aisle and become husband and wife. I don't know them. I will probably never meet them. I am most intrigued because the royal couple seems so down to earth and normal. They met in college, became best friends, their friendship flourished into love and now they are married. I can relate to that. It's not like she was a royal; he was a royal - somehow they got set up and an obligatory wedding occurred. I cannot relate to that and never will.
I expected this wedding to be some sort of spectacle of grandeur and pomp and circumstance. And, don't get me wrong, it definitely had royal elements. However, it seemed more like a down to earth wedding of two people who are deeply in love than it did a royal wedding. In fact, the priest started out the sermon saying every wedding is a royal wedding because we are all daughters and sons of Christ the King.

Now on to my favorite things:
- I loved. loved. LOVED the dress. I have always thought lace wedding dresses were simply elegant and sophisticated. Kate did not disappoint with this dress. Will whispered to her that she looked beautiful. She did. She looked stunning, in fact.

- You can expect to see Kate's bouquet again. At my wedding. I love white/cream bouquets for the bride and this one looked light. Goodness knows, I won't be able to carry any floral monstrosity, so a replica (perhaps with a personal touch) will be in my hands on that big day. A few of my friends have told me her bouquet was wussy and I can do better. We'll see...

- The music and the spiritual aspects of this wedding. The media keeps commenting on how spiritual and intimate this wedding seemed to be. The couple supposedly composed the prayer that was read during the ceremony. You won't catch me writing my own vows, but a prayer? What a nice touch. I'll remember that one.

- Pippa's dress! Simply beautiful.  The cowl neck and the lace trim. Sophisticated yet modern. Who's betting that Pippa and Harry hook up?

- The guest list: Unfortunately, I wasn't on it, but some everyday, ordinary people were. Kate's Buckleberry neighborhood mailman. The pub owner of Kate and Will's favorite pub. The owners of the gas station convenience store Kate frequents. This was not just a "Who's Who" wedding. The people that were there (with a few hundred exceptions) had a personal relationship with the couple.

- TWO kisses...Why not? Go for it!

- Will and Kate's cruise around the city in their "Ju5t Wed" blue Aston Martin.

Then the things I didn't like...
- My favorite part of a wedding is the expression on the groom's face when he sees the bride for the very first time. William was so nervous he stared straight ahead at the altar until she came up to join him. Some have said it is protocol not to turn around, but Harry did. I thought Will should have turned around to see her coming down the aisle. She looked amazing.

- Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie's outfits.  What were they thinking?!

Watching the Royal Wedding swelled my desire to live in London once again. While I never thought I would be able to live overseas, I can independently jaunt all over London without issues. I do hope to live there for a short period one day. In the meantime, I am thankful to have a dear friend in London to visit. Maybe the next time I visit Stef we will go to an affair where fascinators are required!

The DVR is a treasure trove of Royal Wedding specials. Feel free to come over and watch anytime. I will be happy to indulge over and over again.
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