I Want To Ride My Bicycle, I Want To Ride My Bike

I have had several “good days” in a row over the past few weeks!  They may not have been anyone else’s definition of a “good” day, but to me they were. I have always tried to exercise in some shape or form each day for the past 26 years. For many years now I have been confined mostly to walking around the house for as long as possible before having to sit and rest.  Once I have recovered, I walk around again, rest, and so on. My hubby is an avid cyclist and I have at various times tried to ride with him. I start out doing okay, but inevitably wear out in spectacular fashion because I refuse to listen to my body when it starts to get tired.  As a result of my own stupidity, I end up having to stop riding for weeks or months.

In fact, the last time I dared to ride a couple of years ago, I became so utterly undone by the endeavor it took three solid months to come back to a baseline similar to the one I had previously.  After that, I promised never to do that to myself again and put my bike away in the deepest, darkest, corner of the garage. Like someone lost in a foreign country and unable to speak the language, I just couldn’t understand that I could do more over time by slowing down or stopping before inevitably self-imploding.
I follow several MS related research websites and have recently noticed an uptick of studies related to exercise and its effect upon disease progression, regardless of which type the participants had. Of course, exercise doesn’t stop MS progression and disability, but it does have a positive impact.  People who exercised to their fullest potential, even if wheelchair bound, retained more physical skills for a significantly longer period of time than cohorts who didn’t exercise on a regular basis. That got me thinking again about riding my bike.

I’ve certainly noticed a decline in my overall stamina, coordination, and balance for several months, despite my regular efforts to walk around the house.  I’ve also heard myself repeatedly telling my husband how jealous I am of him being able to ride. I got to thinking maybe I should push myself to try cycling again. So, with a healthy dose of trepidation, I put my courage to the sticking place, and pulled my cobweb covered bike out of its long confinement, put some air in the tires, and set off on a short ride.  I managed to get around our block five times in ten minutes before feeling the tug of tiredness. Yay for me!

Feeling encouraged, over the course of the last few weeks I’ve managed to slowly build up some stamina and increase the range I ride. I’d forgotten how delicious it is to feel the breeze on my face, to smell hay and wild honeysuckle in the air, and to hear the choir of various birds singing and chirping from electric lines and treetops. I’d also forgotten how it feels to get my heart rate up, feel the burn of long unused muscles, and enjoy the rush of endorphins when finally finished.

There have been days when I’ve only been able to ride for a few minutes. For example, my ride this morning was abbreviated because fatigue set in pretty quickly.  I had a feeling I wouldn’t make it long since my legs were already heavy and slow to respond to the demands of walking. However, two days ago, I was actually able to ride for 37 minutes!  Perhaps you saw or heard about Kayla Montgomery in the news a few years ago. Kayla’s a young track star who runs races despite the fact MS has left her unable to feel her legs. When the race is over, she collapses into her coach’s arms unable to get up or walk for several minutes or hours.  Well, that’s pretty close to how I am after each ride. It requires a lot of resting before moving on with my day and attempting to conquer other tasks like cooking or folding laundry. I’m trying not to be afraid of what will happen in the future with my MS. I’m going to do my best from day to day trying to obey the constantly fluctuating whims and fancies this dumb disease dictates because I want to be able to continue to enjoy the ride for as long as possible.

Alive, Though We Sleep

I lost my Mom 3 ½ years ago.  The combination of Mother’s Day and Memorial Day makes May a particularly tough month for me.  Sadly, the last few months have been full of loss for several of the people I love. Some have lost spouses, others children, as well as parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and cousins.  A few have in quick succession lost combinations of special people from this list.

Grief is strong.  It can make us feel like we have been imprisoned within its walls with no window for light and no hope of escape.  Regardless of whether you believe in God or not, we all live our lives knowing we and our loved ones will one day die.  For those of us who believe in Christ and His promises, we pray our daily prayers in anticipation of death, and we sing songs of joy about how wonderful the moment will be when our faith becomes sight.  

Even so, when death comes to our loved ones it rocks our world right down to its very foundations.  All those songs of joy and all those prayers offered in hope suddenly mingle with the sting of pain, sorrow, anger, fear, regret, denial, or despair. We’re lonely.  Death seems so final.

How do we go on?  How do we ever feel happiness again?

Christ speaks of death as “sleep”, something you will wake up from, not an everlasting state.  Remember before He raised a young Roman ruler’s daughter from the dead, He told all those who had gathered to grieve the family’s loss, “The girl is not dead but asleep.” (Matthew 9:24)?  Again, about Lazarus, he told His apostles, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (Jn 11:11).

Christ was about to perform a miracle that not only proved He was sent from the Father (vs 42), but also demonstrated in a physical reality the spiritual lesson that we live beyond death.  Four days after Lazarus died, He went to the town where Lazarus and his sisters lived. He then revealed a truth to Lazarus’ sister, Martha, that continues to this day to fill the heart of every Christian with hope.  John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” As both a demonstration and a confirmation that He had the power over resurrection and life, “Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’.  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.” Of course, Jesus went on to manifest His ultimate power over death and the ability to give spiritual life when He rose from the dead of His own accord (Matthew 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-14; Luke 24:1-32; John 20:1-18).

Every book of the New Testament has this truth as its cornerstone.  Paul in particular expounded more deeply upon this idea of death as “sleep”.  In I Corinthians 15:20-22 he wrote, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”  Again, in I Thessalonians 4:13-18, “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Christ as saying that God’s children “are children of the resurrection” and “In the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’  He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.” (Luke 20:35-38). We also know the apostles Peter, John, and James saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus during His transfiguration, as again recorded in the three gospels indicated above. Moses and Elijah were not dead, but recognizably alive!

In Romans 14:7-9 Paul beautifully summarizes why we as Christians do not need to be afraid of death, feel sorry for those who have died in the Lord, or as quoted from I Thessalonians above, “grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope”.  He wrote, “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that He might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.”  Alive or dead, it just doesn’t matter.  Despite the fact we humans can’t see beyond death God does.  He sees His children both here on earth and those in heaven as the same thing – alive!      

I keep these wonderful promises tucked away in my heart.  I hope they bring as much comfort and joy through sorrow to you as they do to me.

To the praise of His glory!

Survey Says…

I hate to brag but I’m a pretty important person. No, seriously.  And you should be a little worried. Here’s the lowdown.

Around late February of this year, after my reluctant but necessary full retirement owing to MS, I decided I was going to need something to do at home to keep me from going completely doolally.  If you’re reading this then, for better or worse, you know the fruit of one of my endeavors – blogging. As much as I’d like to say I’ve thrown myself into writing and have become seriously self-disciplined, the mood actually only strikes once in a while.  On a cheerier note, I’m probably not far from being a serious, internationally-ranked Spider Solitaire contender.

Obviously, I needed more.  Something important that would better humanity.  An avenue that would leave a lasting, positive imprint on the lives of others.  So, I joined Survey Junkie.

Every day my opinions shape your world.  I answer for the masses about real-world, important things, like what we really want from our toilet paper; the best logo for an underwear brand that captures the qualities of “durability and comfort”, the “two things we all want” from our undies; and have carefully chosen between proposed TV commercials to guarantee that the ad fairly represents the company’s commitment to keeping you “safe” while also making you look “prosperous”.

Some survey questions have been easy and fun, for example: Do you use slang?  Fo’ sho’ At what age do you think it is no longer appropriate to you use slang? 89, ‘cause my Grandpa always said he was one cool cat who wasn’t afraid to get on the horn to coppers when he saw someone on the hooch who needed to go to the big house. Did you now that most people think anyone over the age of 26 should not use slang?  Dude, that’s heavy.

Some questions have taught me that OCD has a functional side. Which restaurants have you or anyone in your household visited at least once in the last 12 months? One moment, let me just whip out my Alphabetized, Annotated, and Ranked by 5-Star Rating System of Restaurants Visited Between May 2018 – May 2019 list.

Some questions have been grouped into blocks and straddle between a screening test for Dementia and a social awareness questionnaire. Have you purchased potato chips within the last three months? Are you judging me? What brand(s) of potato chips have you heard of? What brand(s) haven’t I heard of?! Is it important to you that the company who made the potato chips contributes to better their community?  You mean frying potatoes and/or corn into thin, tasty wafers doesn’t count as bettering the community?Would you consider changing the brand of potato chips you normally purchase if you knew a different company made more of a commitment to reducing their carbon footprint than your current chip company? What?  I can’t hear you over the crunch of my Fritos.

Today I took an eight minute survey that was top secret.  I had to agree that I would not reveal the name or contents of the survey among my friends or family, nor would I share anything about it on social media platforms.  See, I told you I was important. I’m doing classified work.

Not only is my opinion important, but valuable too.  In the last two months I’ve earned $22 and counting. The word is out that my opinions are great because I get between 10-15 offers a day to participate in a new survey.  I guess you could even say I’ve become a professional at my new gig.

I’ve always known MS had a few perks, like getting to park in handicap spaces and sitting in reserved areas for my wheelchair at stadiums.  I didn’t know that the virtually home-bound state it has left me in would one day lead me to this new and exciting career in the world of surveys.  It just goes to show that every cloud really does have a silver lining. Oh, I gotta go, someone needs my opinion about which font on the wrapper of mini candy bars properly conveys the rich, creamy chocolate within!