Swimming With Dolphins

And Other Underwater Experiences


I was recently reminded of the adventures my husband and I had while swimming with dolphins in Cabo several years ago.  Since all of the dolphins were rescued and had previously worked in rehabilitation centers, my disability wasn’t an issue.  I suited up in the closest fitting life vest they had and entered the water, with Guy holding onto me.  Even though we were with a small group of people, Jenny (that’s what I named her) kept swimming close to me. It was amazing.

The real adventures began when she took each of us for a spin around the pool.  I hung onto her fins and let her rip.  Those little mammals are really powerful BTW.  Before I was halfway around the pool my strength gave out and I found myself face down in a very deep pool of water.  The not so well-fitted life jacket kept me afloat, however, being a bit oversized it also held my head down.  So I patiently held my breath and hoped my husband could swim really fast.  I was actually rescued by the trainer (clothes and all) as he was able to dive off the platform and reach me quicker than Guy could.  The trainer towed me to safety and to my surprise, Jenny pushed my dragging feet with her nose (something she had learned while working in the rehab center).

The experience was something I’ll always treasure and will  never forget – especially since the photographer suggested I try it again and the results were exactly the same.

For more fun underwater tales checkout my niece’s new book at http://www.astritheoyster.com

Right way
Wrong way

For the Love of Family

The Brady Bunch

With the passing of both my parents in the last two years, I’ve come to truly appreciate the importance of family.  The love that my parents bestowed upon their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren throughout our lives is evident in how we’ve come together during, and after, the loss of Mom and Dad.  I’m forever grateful for the union of these two people and the lessons they taught us.

Our family didn’t start in the normal fashion.  Both Mom and Dad lost their spouses at a young age.  Mom was left with two boys (8 and 6) to raise on her own and Dad was left with two girls (2 and 6 mos.) to raise as a single parent.  Fate soon brought them together and within three months they were married and we became a family of six.

I feel extremely blessed by my parents willingness to wholeheartedly adopt each other’s children and raise all of us as their own.  I now have two older brothers and several nieces and nephews that I deeply cherish.  As my grandmother once said, “it was a union made in heaven.”

My sister-in-law put together a video of our family that is way too cute not to share.   I love you Mom and Dad.



Parking Etiquette

Coming Out of My Shell


At first, I looked the other way when able-bodied individuals parked in spaces designated for disabled drivers.  I was determined not to be that “bitter handicapped woman.”  Fast forward twenty-two years of parkinglot frustrations and I’ve become, shall we say, much more assertive.

I’m extremely fortunate to have the independence associated with owning a wheelchair accessible van, with hand controls.   However, ramp vans require wider parking spots (thus the hash marked areas).  These parking spots are few and I often end up parking in the back-forty (at an angle between two slots) in order to get out of and back into my vehicle.  It, therefore, flabbergasts me when I return to my car to find someone has squeezed their car into the space I’ve created for lowering my ramp, or worse, someone has actually parked in the hash marked section of the disabled parking space.

I could share a number of humorous stories, but the most astounding story occurred on my way to work one morning.  I was in the elevator listening to a woman complain to her friend about how she had parked in a disabled parking space, “I was only going to be five minutes”.  When she returned, her car had been booted.  She was very disturbed that she had to take time, and spend $25, to get her car out of hawk after parking illegally.  Mind you, I was sitting right next to her in my wheelchair.

“Yes, lady, when I couldn’t find a parking space I knew you’d only be five minutes. I drove around the parking lot, not at all concerned about how late I might be for work, waiting for you to return and open one of the only spaces I could park in.”   Okay, I didn’t say anything– now I wish I had.

I’m still not that “bitter handicapped woman”, but I have become a great deal more outspoken when it comes to dealing with my disabilities. I’m also getting very proficient at flagging down strangers and asking them to back my car out so I can lower the ramp.




Fact or Fiction?

Cod cooked with ground cherries

Since experiencing a heart attack in March, I’ve been attending cardio rehab.  For the most part it’s been educating and encourages me to live a heart healthy lifestyle. However, I do find the cardio experts continue to focus on cholesterol levels rather than the true underlying problem, which varies for every individual.  Fortunately, my Nutritionist reviewed the lab reports taken during my heart attack.

All of my health indicators fell within the normal ranges, with the exception of a slightly elevated glycemic level.  My cholesterol was a moderate 203. So why did the doctor prescribe statins?  The standard answer — “it’s the American Heart Association’s recommendation for anyone suffering from heart disease.    Statins have been proven to reduce the risk of heart attack.”  What the AHA doesn’t address, are the increased cases of dementia since prescribing statins and the fact that our bodies (and brains)  need cholesterol to combat inflammation.

Obviously this doesn’t mean we should run right out and eat a diet high in saturated fats, but it does mean that we should focus on the specific items our body needs.  Mine turned out to be to reduce my glycemic intake and more importantly exercise.  As a non-ambulatory individual, my highest risk factor was the lack of aerobic exercise.  The AHA recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.  Moderate is defined as being able to talk while exercising, but not sing.  🙂

I’m now following a diet, complete with supplements, that is suited specifically to my body’s needs, as overseen by my Nutritionist.  I’m also establishing a daily routine of aerobic exercise by using a hand-cycle (MagneTrainer has worked well for me).

… while the American Heart Association used to recommend consuming no more than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol a day, they recently decided there’s not enough scientific evidence to stand by that suggestion. Experts now say that, yes, there’s cholesterol in eggs, but, contrary to what we’ve previously been told, dietary cholesterol doesn’t seem to have much effect on blood cholesterol, the type that actually clogs your arteries, for the average person.    —-Rodale’s Organic Life (Stephanie Eckelkamp 3/30/2017)

Climbing Mt. Rainier

In Loving Memory of John Jenkins (1985-2017)


It’s always been my dream to summit Mt. Rainier.  To that end, I’ve hiked to Panorama Point several times and eventually joined the Mountaineers.  Unfortunately, around that time my body started to rebel against me.  My TM onset was very gradual, so at first I thought I was simply out of shape.  The Mountaineer requirements for physical conditioning were overwhelming, but gave me the kick in the behind I needed to finally seek medical advice (after a diligent exercise routine failed miserably).

A few months after my diagnosis, I woke up to find the ground blanketed in snow. I dressed in my warmest clothes, put on my sadly neglected hiking boots, grabbed two canes, and headed out the door.  The walkway leading to my car was covered in ice and snow. Determined to move on, however, I stepped in a footprint left in the ice, planted my canes firmly in the snow and told myself, “You’ve always wanted to summit Mt. Rainier. This is your mountain–let’s do this!”

I’ve been climbing my mountain ever since and enjoying the beauty, adventures and challenges along the way.  I also live vicariously through Guy’s daughter, who summits every interesting peak that gets in her way (usually more than once).   Guy and I have found numerous wilderness areas with paved trails, including Mt. Rainier (we even encountered a couple of black bears up there).  For more info about ADA trails in Washington checkout the Washington Trails Association.



Life is Fragile, Handle With Prayer

Embrace Each Moment


Mom & Dad 2009
Mary and Bert Hutchinson


I’m eternally grateful for a family that comes together in times of crisis.    Last week we faced the decision of whether to put my mom on life-support.  She took a bad fall while trying to catch the community bus for a lunch outing.  Unfortunately, the fall caused severe brain damage.  The decision to allow Mom to go peacefully was unanimous, as we all knew her desire to live a full and vital life (even at age 89).  The entire family was present and supportive of each other.  Though my heart broke with every tear shed by children and grandchildren, it also swelled with love for the family that surrounded Mom in her final days. 

The family cohesiveness that I witnessed during both of my parent’s passing is a direct reflection of their legacy.  They raised our family with love, support, optimism and an unfailing faith in the Lord.

Thank you, Mom (1927-2017) and Dad (1931-2015). I love and miss you.


The World Didn’t Come to an End

Realizing One of My Greatest Fears


Guy taking care of the home front


EXACTLY one month after my trip to the ER, Guy and I found ourselves in the very same emergency room.  The night after a routine colonoscopy, my poor husband was bleeding so profusely he required two units of blood.  As I  watched the emergency staff hover over him and heard the doctor say,  “stay with me sir,” I wondered what my life would be like without him.  Fortunately I don’t have to think about that for now.

I was, however, confronted with my fear of facing life temporarily without him.  Since buying a house farther from the city (45 minutes from emergency facilities) and with fewer accommodations for my personal independence, both of us frequently worry about my ability to function without his assistance.  Guy’s hospital visit was our worst nightmare coming true.

To our delight, our amazing support community (church, friends, family and neighbors)  came through for us again–from meeting us at the ER, to feeding the pets. Hospitals are also very accepting of the patient’s family member’s needs. The nurse’s assistance with my frequent trips to the restroom allowed me to stay by Guy’s side the entire night.

Although we still have improvements to make to our living space, we discovered, in the words of a friend, “the world didn’t come to an end” just because my husband needed me to be his caregiver for a change.