No, I did not visit the Griswalds, or Cousin Eddy’s house. But I did visit my aunt Heidi and Uncle Bruce, which is pretty close to the same thing. Over the holiday, my parents, sisters, Dr. Wile E. Coyote and I went on a 2-week vacation in Europe for the holidays. A week in Italy, followed by a week in Germany.
In Italy, with my uncle’s family (stationed there because military), we saw Mt. Vesuvius (this big volcano that they live right next to), Herculaneum (which is very similar to Pompeii, except smaller and a tad better excavated because it’s more recent), the Flavian Amphitheater (which is the third biggest Roman amphitheater), the Vatican, St. Peter’s square, the outside of the Roman coliseum (because we saw the entire amphitheater in Pozzuoli). And we got to spend Christmas there and hang out with family! Others in the family went shopping, while I stayed home and napped or something because I was EXHAUSTED. We went to a place and had some Italian fine dining. LOTS of delish Italian food. And experiencing riding in Italian traffic. Well, the traffic in Naples, anyway. I had to take a Dramamine every single day. Goodness!
In Germany, we visited our foreign-exchange-family-member and her family. Viktoria (the FEFM) planned this awesome honeymoon getaway for Dr. Wile E. Coyote and I in Freiburg, Germany, where we rode a cable car above the Black Forest, ate awesome German food, went to Christmas markets that were still going until the New Year, and learned a lot about the German public transportation system. At the home of Viktoria, we ate more delicious German food and experienced a German New Year—where everyone has fireworks (that would be illegal in the USA), so it was like a big fireworks show, all around you. The last day, we toured a castle in Heidelberg, as well as the bridge there and ate more German food.
So, that’s the low down on what we did. I apologize I don’t have any cool pics to put up, because my mother was the photographer of the trip and has all the cool ones. You can check some out at her blog, though! So much to sum up to answer the common questions of, “What did you do? Where did you go? What did you see?” Stay tuned, as there shall be many more blogs coming shortly, both about this vacation, and the rest of the many things that are swirling in my head!
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!
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.
9. I GOT MARRIED!
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)?
Once upon a time, the Olsons thought it would be fun to go on a family vacation. The fieldwork was at a good place to leave for a few days, and there were four days all summer when Jonathan and Carolyn were free. But Laura (daughter #3) couldn’t get off of work for that many days in a row, and she had already made plans to go to Omaha and hang out with a bestie of hers. Christina (daughter #2) was working in Custer State Park at the Black Hills Playhouse, so we’d go there. Anna (me, aka daughter #1) was home for the summer and it turned out that the four days Jonathan and Carolyn (the ‘rents) were looking at for the proposed vacation were free for her, too. So they went on vacation. Anna kept a log of the vacation, but it is eight pages long so I won’t bore you with it. Speaking in third person is a bit odd, maybe. But whatever—Anna thinks it’s fun, therefore so do I.
-Seeing Laura and talking with her for an hour and a half before we hit I-90. She handed Jonathan a bag from PacSun and said, “This is for you. To give to Christina.” She’s a gem.
-The corn palace and Wall Drug, neither of which is as impressive as when you’re eight, so Anna learned. She also learned that when you’re taking a lot of pictures of a building, you are labeled a tourist, even if home is a mere few hours away. We were such cliché tourists. Except we didn’t buy any souvenirs the whole trip. So, only mostly cliché.
-Seeing people from our hometown when we were staying at a hotel in Wall, SD. Can’t go anywhere, seriously. We were at Badlands National Park, and Carolyn’s like, “Quick, they have Minnesota plates. We might know them and start talking!” We didn’t, but that was close. We knew other people that were headed to the Black Hills that week. Somehow, we find each other.
-Changing time zones after six hours on the road (who knew you could go six hours west and change, but you’d have to drive for days before it switches going east). That certainly threw things off. It was like daylight savings, but we were so busy and doing things that you didn’t notice the “extra hour”. You used it for other things. And then after we get home, everyone’s asleep by 9:30pm Mountain Time, even though I had seen 2:30am Central Time on the trip a few times. Is that confusing? Probably.
-Mount Rushmore. During the day and the night lighting ceremony, which Carolyn (“Mom” as I call her) talks about in a blog here. I’d never really understood why Roosevelt was there, but each of the four presidents stand for something in the original vision of America. Have we strayed from what our country is supposed to stand for? Who knows. Also learned a bunch about Borglum, the sculptor, who died before it was finished, when we went to his museum in Keystone, where we stayed. Not at his museum, ‘cuz that would be creepy. In Keystone.
-Crazy Horse. We went to the visitor center this time. It’s super big and the stories behind it are pretty cool. Did you know they’ve been working on it for, like, 60 years? And the four faces of Rushmore could fit in CH’s head. Whoa!
-Seeing Christina. She came to the hotel we were at twice and didn’t leave until after midnight, but it was fun to talk to her. We took her out for supper one day and we went to the Black Hills Playhouse and saw “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” which was excellent. She’s a tech intern there this summer, and her bio in the play bill made her sound real cool (‘cuz she pretty much is).
-Bear Country, USA, nowhere else will never see more bears together even if you’re born with them and they don’t kill you but accept you as one of their own. There was a slight hold up because bears ahead were playing with other and climbing on things and someone was breaking the rules and had their window open and were eating Lays Potato Chips and the bear wanted them. Or he was just climbing on a pole and cute from a distance.
Anyhoo, all of us—I mean, Jonathan, Carolyn, and Anna—are still real tired but moving ahead, ‘cuz we’re starting barley harvest today. And Anna’s giving lessons today. All of the previously mentioned people have a lot to do this week is what I’m basically saying in too many words. Vacation was fun and the hills were pretty, but I really missed the flat prairie I grew up in. Until the next blog Anna writes not in third person,