My 10th Celebration of Life

On this day ten years ago….my mother and I traveled an hour away from my hometown to visit my neurologist to receive my official diagnosis. The results from the spinal tap had come back, and finally, Dr. Nelson would tell us for sure if I had a pinched nerve, MS, or a brain tumor. He had given all three of these as possibilities as to why my entire left side had stopped working normally, but his theory was that I most likely had MS. That is what we knew before we got to Wilmar, MN. I was CONVINCED that it was nothing but a pinched nerve, and for some unknown reason my name had been on the prayer list at church for the last few weeks.

On that day, ten years ago, I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was started on some medical steroids, and I was shown how to use the Autoject for my three-times-weekly medicine shots, just under the skin. (It would be another year before I gave myself those shots….and, of course, I was bribed—because what other way is there for a kid to be willing to do something unless they get something in return?)

Since my diagnosis, we have called the anniversary of that day my “celebration of life.” It is the day when I can look back on a year and see all the things I have been able to do, even though I have MS. On this ten-year anniversary of this life-altering diagnosis, I reflect on the things I have accomplished in my life!

1. I’ve been on all sorts of cool vacations and stuff.

Who cares if I had to rent a wheelchair to go Disneyworld? I went to Disneyworld! I’ve also rented wheelchairs at zoos, and even the Minnesota State Fair. Those places take a lot of walking, and I don’t quite have the energy to walk all that way. But I still got to experience it and enjoy my visits! Those places, by the way, have been the only ones I rented a wheelchair for. I can still walk! ….just not super far. I’ve been to the Wisconsin Dells and the Black Hills of South Dakota, just doing the tourist thing because I could. In high school, I went to a youth gathering with a church denomination, and had an AWESOME time with my cousin Jenni and my aunt Sheryl! In college, I went on TWO summer mission projects. Just because I have MS, doesn’t mean I can’t have fun! So I have to plan a little extra, and the south is typically a bad idea in the summer. I STILL LIVE LIFE.

2. In middle school, there were no cheerleaders, and I wanted to be one, so I petitioned and found a coach for middle school basketball cheerleaders!

The January after my diagnosis. I am second from the right, front row. You know, the one with the big smile?
The January after my diagnosis. I am second from the right, front row. You know, the one with the big smile?

We were moderately good. Our most difficult move was when one cheerleader stood on the thighs of two other cheerleaders, but we stayed safe. I wasn’t really into watching sports, but I did notice that when our middle school teams had cheerleaders, the whole “crowd” was pretty riled up. You know, for a middle school game. Smiley face. Of course, this cheerleading team kind of left the middle school when I did. I always wanted to be a cheerleader. Our high school had football cheerleading, but by that time, I just wanted to play in the pep band. (We see why I became a music major?)

I was also on the golf team for a few years before the walking became too much for me and I acknowledged that I wasn’t that great.  But it was fun!

3. I got my black belt!

Actually, I started Tae Kwon Do in 4th grade.  In 7th grade, I got my junior  black belt.  I was diagnosed with MS in 8th grade.  In 9th grade, I got my 2nd degree junior black belt.  After I turned 16, sophomore year, I got my first degree adult black belt.  And senior year, I got my second degree adult black belt!  I was involved in Tae Kwon Do for 8 years; 5 of those years after having MS.  I remember difficulty in my first tournament after being diagnosed, but then I just focused on what I COULD do instead of what I COULDN’T.  I taught and I was a referee as my level advanced.  I became inactive in TKD after I graduated high school, but I will always be a second degree black belt!

4. I finished high school AND college.

One of my college professors once told me that he had never seen such determination in a student. So I wasn’t the best. Who cares? I did as best I could. I was DETERMINED to finish well and I learned a ton while in those college years. I wrote a post about what MS has taught me over the last decade or so here.

5. I played a senior recital of percussion music.

At that time in my life, I had skill, because I was playing on these instruments all the time. I played a piece on the marimba, the timpani, some toms (drums), the vibraphone, and even flower pots! (Videos of all these can be seen on YouTube.) I loved that season in my life, when I could go from instrument to instrument in the percussion section in an empty band room and just PLAY.

6. I’ve had a “grown-up job” since I graduated.

Even before I graduated, I’ve been giving private lessons. According to some of my other music-major friends, I wasn’t charging enough, but still. As soon as I graduated, I got on the substitute teacher list for a few different school districts. And when I got to Kentucky, of course, I began working at a music store—giving lessons! And now I’ve started up this Mary Kay business! Before I was married, I paid my own rent, bought my own food, and loved when Mom and Dad came to Sioux Falls to take me grocery shopping. And now, I don’t get many visits from Mom and Dad (because I currently live, like, 20 hours away), but I still get care packages of coffee brands that aren’t sold in the south. (Thanks, mom!)

7. I’ve written, like, four novels.

Only one I’ve written is decent enough for me to want to publish it, but I do want to publish it! [2015 edit: you can find my first book here.] I also write shortstories and blog posts all the time. And other little things when I feel like it. I’ve kept a journal since I was diagnosed! And things have just kept moving from there. I don’t believe they will ever stop, either.

8. I wrote music for a class in college and directed an ensemble playing it in church one time.

So I maybe didn’t take into consideration that band instruments play better in flats than sharps. And that high school students can’t pick up music as fast as college students. But I was so proud of that piece! I even published my college friends and I playing the piece here on YouTube.


My handsome groom and I at our wedding this last July.
My handsome groom and I at our wedding this last July.

Just this last summer, if you are keeping up with me at all on this blog. (I’ve kinda talked about it a lot….) Never did I ever think I would meet a man who saw ME past the MS that has been so apparent in my life. I have a limp, which is the most obvious symptom to the world and the first turn-off to anybody who sees that instead of me first (which is pretty much everybody). But Dr. Wile E. Coyote, while he notices my limp, only notices if it’s a bad day or a good day and helps me stretch sometimes. Or if he’s walking with me, and I pull him around. (He’s not as sturdy as my sisters when they’ve walked with me, hehe.) I love Dr. Coyote, my best friend, and he is what I need. But God knew that. And I am privileged to be starting this med school journey with him and trusting the Lord until graduation, and beyond! (Like, forever. Every. Minute.)

10. I have become stronger than I thought possible.

Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have had to push past the limits of where I would want to quit because something is hard. Being diagnosed so young (at 13), I had to face many decisions and situations that most teens shouldn’t have to face. I thank the good Lord for my always-supportive family who helped me so much!

On this day in ten years, who knows what things I’ll accomplish that I’ll be able to remember? The thing about having MS is that though we have to plan a little more, sometimes sleep a little more, and maybe be careful of what activities we chose to partake in, we still live normal lives. I haven’t felt normal for years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would love to wake up one day and the Lord tell me, “You’re cured!” But I know that when people see me walking with a limp, unphased, it brings God more glory.

Anna E Meyer

So I’ve talked about what I’ve learned and what I’ve done, MS wise. What else would you all like to know (MS-wise)?

A Letter from 2014 Me To 2009 Me

Dear Type-A, Control-Freak, 12th-grader Anna from 2009,

Yes, I just called you a type-A control freak.  Because you are.  You hide behind other people’s opinions and you like approval.  You don’t like to think for yourself, because what if you are wrong?  You follow the rules and you have this awesome confidence when you know something really well.  I know this MS has been hard so far, and it’s not over yet.

Who am I, and how do I know these things?  I’m you, after college.  I am currently 23, and life is pretty great right now.  You’re still walking, but you know all those lectures everyone gives you about stretching and exercising?  They’re serious.  Keep at it.  You won’t regret it.  (You’ll probably be lectured from all sorts of people throughout life, so you might as well learn to listen, not do everything but what you’re told.)  I’m still walking, although my limp has gotten worse over time.  (Keep stretching!  Even as I write this now, I haven’t stretched yet today, and I feel like such a hypocrite.)  I am currently job searching—the “currently” part encompassing the last month or so, but I haven’t really done anything about it until now.

I want to encourage you.  Keep playing music.  You just decided, about now, I think, that you’re going to major in instrumental music.  It’s tough, but you will love learning all that you are going to learn.  All the music theory, music history, and those instruments?  You’ll learn so much!  Also, keep writing.  Don’t be discouraged that the story you wrote last year isn’t very good (it isn’t—what is the plot even supposed to be?  It’s weak.)  KEEP WRITING.  You will just keep getting better.  I promise.  I haven’t had anything published yet, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried.  And it’s all been totally worth it.  And, you’re going to get involved in this campus ministry, at first because you feel like you’re supposed to.  But God is about to change your life super dramatically using it.  You will love it. And you might find a future career opportunity through it.  Through any of these things that you love—you won’t stop loving them.  In fact, you’ll become better at what you like to do, and you may find future career opportunities through any of those things.  You may be freaking out because you don’t know what you’ll be doing—that’s okay.  I actually still don’t know.  But one thing I’ve learned is to be okay with that.

College is better than high school.  I promise.  And it just keeps getting better.  I am so excited for what comes next.  I’m so ready to leave college behind.  In a letter you wrote to your high school graduating-self back in 7th grade, you totally planned out your future.  It’s kind of embarrassing, you’ll come to realize when you read it in a couple months.  You’re not as bad as you used to be, but you’ll keep easing up.  The details aren’t worth getting upset over.  They’re not that big of a deal.  As Dad says, “Don’t worry about the little things.  And it’s all little things.”

There are so many things I wish I could tell you right now.  You are going to make so many friends in the next 5 years!  But sometimes not knowing is the best.  You love surprises.  So wait and be surprised.  Chose a major and stick with it, but have fun!  And don’t worry about the future.  It takes a long time to learn that lesson, and I’m still continually learning it.  God has the best for you in mind.  Sometimes it will hurt, and sometimes you will cry.  But it’s worth it.  Live and love—you love so well.  Be comfortable with who you are as an individual with your own opinions and talents—not just the opinions and talents you think you should have.  It’s okay not to be the best—you won’t get to play with the Augustana Band every year, but that’s okay.  You’ll still get to play.  Strive to be YOUR best.  There IS a difference, and it’s okay.  I am so excited for you.  You are faithful and fun and so great!

Stay you,

Anna from 2014

Reflection and Praises– senior recital

As I am undergoing year four, part two, of my college career, the end is coming and it is causing me to reflect.  It’s not coming THAT FAST, as I am student teaching next fall, but still.  I performed my senior percussion recital a couple weeks ago.  It was a big factor of causing me to look back.  I have accomplished so much despite the Multiple Sclerosis I have, I am in awe.  Upon entering college, I was not very good, and symptoms only added to my ability of getting the improved playing down very quickly.  But through the MS and its restraints, I have found a determination I didn’t know I possessed.  I even had a prof tell me last semester that I am the most determined student he’s seen since he’d been teaching at this school.  My recital was a Saturday, and my dress rehearsal was the Wednesday before.  I had been preparing for this recital for almost a year, though I had only had some of the pieces in my hands for a couple months.  I had been practicing and practicing, more and more, increasingly up to the point of my recital.  My recital was the Saturday after everyone was back from spring break, so I spent more than half of my break on campus, PRACTICING.  I enjoyed it, and playing soon transitioned from the practicing so that I wouldn’t make a mistake to practicing so I couldn’t make a mistake.  At the end of my dress rehearsal, my prof told me that he was proud of me and all I’d accomplished.  And I realized—I WAS, TOO!  It was an incredible feeling, and I still carry it.  I performed a recital all by myself.  I played with two ensembles, one of which played a piece I wrote, the other in which I soloed.  Seven pieces, three memorized, and all well-prepared.  Eight instruments.  People asked me many times what my favorite was.  I have no idea still—I played pieces on the vibraphone, timpani, marimba, xylophone, a multiple-drum set-up, a triangle/woodblock combo (not a solo, an orchestral part for the piece I wrote), and flower pots.  Yes, flower pots.  I think, in the end, I decided that I liked playing the flower pot piece the most, because it was unique and it took more work than just playing it—I went and sat in a Menard’s listening to flower pot pitches; I went to find a theater prof to get help speaking it well; I went and found a classics prof to get the background of the text, I experimented a ton with how I should play them, what I should put them on to get a decent height, whether I should stand or sit.  When I uploaded my solos onto YouTube yesterday, I realized that I was kind of putting myself out there, and I didn’t know what I thought of that.  But I also put them there so that friends and family who couldn’t see it would, and so that people learning the pieces could hear different interpretations (as I always do when learning a piece).

As I was preparing for my recital, I continually prayed that God get all the glory.  I don’t know if putting some of those pieces on YouTube will do all that, but I desire it still.  I totally couldn’t have done the recital or anything without the Lord’s help, I am being totally honest here (not just saying that).  When I have no energy left but still needed to practice, I would somehow find it once more (usually after a plea in prayer).  I would not be able to be that determined on my own, either.  I am super THANKFUL.  God has blessed me in so many ways.  And all that family and friend support?  Another AMAZING blessing, and I am so thankful for them, too!   Praise and glory be to God, forever and ever!  Amen.

Oh, and here is my flower pot piece that I talked about a lot here, just because I know you’re curious.  (It’s long but worth it.)  And, if you really want to, you can follow it to my channel to see the others.  (Thinking of you, Anita!)


🙂 Anna

That’s Not My Intro

I sometimes laugh when I write because I think it’s funny stuff.  Sometimes when I write, well, okay, I’ve just been in a silly kind of mood lately.  The piece I thought to compose has rhythms that spell “epic” in Morse Code.  I think of different lyrics for songs I hear and I like to transform the pre-existing to apply to whatever I’m doing of thinking of.  Which is fun.  Until you are assigned to write a paper for school.  A real paper.  My attempts at starting my paper where not a college-level quality, so I scratched them.  “Come on, Anna, you’ve been doing these for three years now!”  Maybe, but I’ve had a summer packed full of more writing than that, my style.  You’re curious now, aren’t you?  Yeah, I’ll share my attempts with you.  I feel like a lot of my inner (nerd) self was revealed here, and I’m okay with that, for now, after getting that out of my system, I can write a real paper!


Anna Olson

Synopsis of Music Education History

Voice. Percussion. Brass. Woodwind.  Long ago, the four families lived together in harmony as each evolved to be like the instruments we see today.  Then, everything changed when the Americas were discovered and the United States became settled.  Music altogether was forgotten about as the people of the new nation had other things to worry about.  Only the Avatar, teacher and master of all four instrument groups, could stop this indifference.  But when a newly settled country needed him most, he vanished.  Though music found its way into churches, its use was limited, and the Voice Group began to rise.  Out of the Voice Group came attempts of teaching by Fransiscan Friars who began teaching noted music.  Hundreds of years later, a new teacher was born, a non-instrumentalist named John Heinrich Pestalazzi who brought the Rote Method to teach singing.  And although the method was good, it didn’t use the affective domain.  Sometime later, Lowell Mason came and brought with him the Note Method, which used all three domains, the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective.  He brought with him the Utilitarian Philosophy, which serves a function of teaching and believes that performance comes from teaching.  Music Education has a long ways to go before it is of a perfected philosophy.  But I believe, Music Ed can change the world.




Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start!  When you read you begin with A, B, C, John Tufts began the rule of do, re mi.  Moved around by Charles Aiken, do, re, mi.




Once upon a time there was music being birthed by composers who became great such as Josquin, Palestrina, and Byrd.  Meanwhile, America was in the process of being discovered, settled, and explored.  Music in America did not have the new birthing that it did in Europe, but was limited in its use, except in churches.




A long time ago in a galaxy we call home…

Synopsis of Music Education History

Anna Olson

            It is a period of limited music use, except in churches.  The Franciscan Friars have struck the first note in 1603 by coming up with the first noted use of teaching music against the evil Music Indifference.  As a result of a few being taught music in church, the Bay Psalm Book was published, the second book published in the United States.  Years later the first Singing School began, followed soon after by Singing Societies.  During these developments, two dissident musician teachers brought forth their PHILOSOPHIES AND METHODS, armed with enough vision to teach an entire nation.  Pursued by the function of performing, Lowell Mason develops a philosophy in which the performance comes from teaching; the utilitarian philosophy emphasizes teaching as it raises money through performances to save music departments everywhere.




It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of discovery, it was the age of loss, it was the melodious epoch, it was the tuneless epoch, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the harmonious spring, it was the off-key winter, they had everything before them, they had nothing before them.  There were the Singing Schools to teach people how to sing; there were the Singing Societies to perform and show off people’s singing.  In both cases it was clearer than crystal to the singers and the listeners, that things in general weren’t going as they should.  John Heinrich Pestalozzik introduced a key philosophy and method called the Rote Method; Lowell Mason later introduced a key philosophy and method called the Note Method.


Ahh!  Well, there you go.  It is a far, far better thing that I do to write and submit a real paper; it is a far, far better feeling inside of accomplishment instead of just giggles, I’m sure.


It still makes me smile, Anna 🙂