Prone paddle boarding – learning and adapting with a disability

I started prone paddle boarding about four months ago. As a disabled person, being out on the water is a time of freedom from my handicap. I’ve only been out on the board seven times so far but I think i’m hooked. It’s challenging enough to keep me interested without the frustration of limitations.

first paddle

My first time on a prone paddle board.

My disability, multiple sclerosis, affects my body primarily through my legs and thinking ability. I can walk short distances with a walker but my legs are weak. Temperature changes and over-exertion effect me sometimes hours or days after the occurrence. Therefore I tend to be cautious about long workouts. Since I’m not fighting to make my legs work, paddle boarding allows me to increase the duration of my workouts.

The biggest logistical problem is finding help to get me in the water. Walking on sand may seem nice to some people but for be it’s quicksand and my feet feel like they weigh 50 lbs. They make water wheelchairs and those can be useful if you have a big truck and help to get you in and out  of it but for me the easiest way if I only have one helper is to walk in holding on to the arms of a friend that is walking backwards in front of me.

Getting out is another story. I tend to just scoot backwards on my butt until it’s shallow enough for someone to pull me up to standing. Then if my walker is parked close by I can slowly inch my way through the sand. The walker doesn’t roll in the sand so I have to pick it up and move it forward before I take a step. This technique can cause accumulation of sand in your clothes and shoes so I’ve started wearing bicycle type shorts and closed water shoes. That keeps the sand collection to a minimum.

Each time I’ve gone out on a board, I’ve learned something new. I’ve discovered the imbalances in my muscles so now I am focusing on how to correct that and improve all aspects of my life. My fear and ignorance of the ocean is decreasing. I’m learning new ways to get in the water and on the board.

I’ve also been motivated to get stronger so I can paddle better. I’ve been working on my swimming skills, balance and arm strength. Sure, I could have done those things without paddle boarding but I needed the boost of wanting to participate in the sport.

Right now I’m borrowing a board that was modified for someone else and while it’s great to practice on, eventually I will get a customized board of my own. I had to use the wrong board a few times to figure out what I need. My hope is that with the right board, I’ll be able to go farther and longer than I can right now.

board on car

My borrowed custom Bark board.

As you can see from the photo, handles have been added to the sides which allows me to load onto the board from the back and pull myself forward. This board also has a chest pad and chin block. I’ve played around with these and haven’t really found them to be that helpful for my particular disability.

Every person’s disability is different and it’s great to learn from other’s discoveries and mistakes but ultimately for things to work as smoothly as possible, you just have to get out and experiment for yourself.

Twenty years with a furry roommate.

ShastaTwenty years ago, I was fairly new to Seattle and didn’t know many people. I saw an ad on my job’s internal site for a two year-old cat that needed a home. I’ve always wanted a dog but since I’d never had any pet before, I thought a cat would be easier and good training for a dog.

I contacted the woman and made an appointment to meet Shasta. In my mind, I was just going to check it out but had no intention of taking her home with me. I really had no experience with cats at all. When I got to the apartment, I met the two sisters that had five cats. They were downsizing. As I sat on their couch, I looked at the fur matted carpet and told myself I would never have a carpet that looked that bad. I didn’t but I did learn about the velcro power of cat fur.

It wasn’t long before a small, shy, tailless cat hopped onto my lap and the next thing I knew, I was walking out to my car with her. That was the start of my relationship with Shasta. I had to stop at the drugstore on the way home to buy a litter box and food. That’s when I learned that my new roommate was quite a talker and LOUD!

Once I got her back to my apartment she went  under the couch and for the next few days I only got glimpses of her cowering under furniture. It took a bit of coaxing and bribing but we eventually became friends.

After she’d been with me for a month or so, I had to leave town for a week. Not knowing anyone, I just left her alone with a big bowl of food and a clean litter box. She was fine when I got back and for many years that’s how I took care of her. We did our own things and occasionally checked in with each other. Still, it was nice to have someone to talk to and do yoga with.

I assumed all cats would want to go outside but not this one. After she’d live with me for a few months, I decided to let her out. Again, with lots of bribes, after a few weeks, she walked out my front door. She never went farther than a few feet and ran back inside at any sound.

I moved from that apartment several months later, to a two story house with a second floor balcony. It had a high, solid railing around it so I put her out there while we were moving things in. Well, that was the last I saw of her for about three days. Eventually, I heard meows coming from under the front stairs and we were reunited    .Shasta

Over the course of twenty years, Shasta and I lived in ten different places, nine in Washington and one in Hawaii. She learned to tell the signs of an impending move and adapted quickly to her new homes. The move to Hawaii was a bit of an ordeal but once she did her inspection of the place, I think see liked it. The heat was good for her creaky legs.

She was raised more like a dog. She liked fetching treats. She did a morning wake-up call around 5:30 am, singing songs as loudly as possible in front of my bedroom door. She acquired several nicknames – Shlumpy, Petunia, Bubba Jo and her favorite-Galactic Princess of the Universe. She was my pup.

The last few years of her life, she became a high maintenance girl, but we both adapted and I think she was content. As she got older, we got closer, spending more time together. She hadn’t been a lap cat but she learned to appreciate the attention. We understood each other and she taught her human well.

My best friend, Shasta

IMG_0271

1992 – 2014

Surf ski vs. Wave ski

I’ve been trying to figure out what my Hawaii sport is going to be. I tried the prone paddle boarding but I’m not sure that’s for me since lying on my stomach sometimes causes my back and legs to spasam. It’s true that I’ve only tried that three times and while the first time with coaches was fun, once I got in the water by myself it was a lot harder. There’s a learning curve that I haven’t concurred.

Doing sports, especially water sports alone isn’t an option for me since I need help getting into the water. I don’t have the strength to walk in the sand on my own. Once I’m on the board I’m fine. If I fall in, the board I’ve been using is specially modified with handles so I can pull myself back on. The problem is finding people willing to help get me on the board and go paddling with me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few members of a local group go out with me a few times. I’m still trying to get the hang of it, but I’m improving.

So now I’m looking into wave skiing. A wave ski is  sort of a sit down surf board. There is a seatbelt around your waist and your feet are held down with straps.

images

I haven’t actually done it yet but there is one for sale on Craigslist. I say that because I don’t think there’s any place on Oahu that rents them. I contacted AccesSurf and they are considering doing monthly clinics so maybe I’ll get on one soon.

A surfski is similar to a wave ski but it’s more like a kayak with more of a molded bowl seat and foot activated rudders. I tried one once in a creek, but I think waves would intimidate me. They are really tippy and I’m not sure I’d be able to get back on out in deep water.

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For now, I’ll wait for an opportunity to give a wave ski a test and maybe get back on a surf ski once more before ruling that out completely.

Writing book reviews.

I’ve recently started getting paid to review ebooks. I question whether this is a good thing to do because I’m reading books I would never think to pick up on my own so I don’t feel my reviews are accurate. If I don’t normally read mysteries I don’t have anything to judge or compare to. Some books are torture to read but some people might enjoy their particular genre.

I try to write fair reviews based on the writing ability not the subject matter but some are just so hard for me to read. Others have surprised me because the synopsis sounds so uninteresting but the book ends up being completely different.

I’ve only refused to read one book and that was because I had read two of the authors previous books and knew that he needed a good editor to trim down his 700 page manuscript. I did not want to waste my time in order to make $5.

Yep, that’s what I make to do these reviews. Not exactly a fantastic career choice. I just figure, if I’m not doing anything else, then why not? Of course I don’t read every word or do research into the author or topic, but I get a fair sense of the mood and tone of the book and whether I like it.

The main dilemma for me is that people are reading these reviews and possibly basing their purchases on what I say. These aren’t books I’ve chosen to read or genres I necessarily enjoy so I don’t think my judgements are accurate.

Also, there are certain tricks such as purchase times and endorsing other reviews that are used to boost ratings that aren’t exactly honest.

I will eventually get tired of giving up my reading time for these books but for now it at least pays for my eBay shopping habit. It has opened up my range of titles that I’ll consider when choosing a book for myself but considering the level of writing that most of the books I’ve written about, that might not be such a good thing.

 

Having fun with AccesSurf.

I’ve been having fun this summer exploring handicap possible water activities. There’s a lot to explore here in Hawaii and with a little or sometimes much help, I’ve found new sports to try.

It started back in March with AccesSurf. This is a great organization that brings a wide range of people with various physical challenges out into the ocean to swim, surf, paddle board and kayak. They have two gatherings a month, one for all challenged athletes and one for Wounded Warriors. http://www.accessurf.org

My first day with the group, they escorted my out into the water on a big-wheeled chair and guided me in swimming. It was my first time in the ocean in probably fifteen years. The volunteers were great, very responsive to any special needs. I didn’t actually do much of anything. They suspended me in the water and let me float. Truthfully, it was pretty uncomfortable since the life vest forced my neck into an awkward position.

After the swim came the part I was really looking forward to, SURFING! Okay, I won’t be standing up on a board anytime soon, but riding tandem on my belly out into the waves was exhilarating.  We caught three 3-4 foot waves before I had to let someone else have their turn. So much fun! I’ve wanted to surf since I was a little girl. Dream come true.

I now try to make it out every month. Last month they changed it up and had kayaking, canoeing and prone paddle boarding.

What is prone paddle boarding? It’s also known as traditional paddle boarding, which is what the Hawaiians originally did before stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). The board is more like a surf board but you lie on it and paddle with your arms. It’s a sport that I can do solo once I’m in the water, so for that reason, I really like it.

AccessSurf prone paddleboarding

AccessSurf prone paddleboarding

The guy that taught me, Mark Matheson, is a paraplegic who competes in long distance races with his team. His boards are customized with handles and an extra large wedge of foam to lean on and prop the neck up. We both went out and it felt so good to be doing something all on my own in the water.

Since then, Mark has offered to let me use his extra board to see if this is really the sport for me. He introduced me to a friend that he paddle with and the friend asked how my swimming skills were. Whoops. Not great.

So, last weekend I tried ocean swimming for the first time in probably twenty years. It took a lot of assistance to get me into and out of the water, but in the water wasn’t so bad. I wouldn’t want to be in the water without either a floatation device or life vest but I didn’t feel completely out of control. I did take my life vest off and let go of the boogie board for a minute or two. Swimming definitely uses body parts I haven’t been using for a while. It’s something I’ll have to do though if I do take up prone paddle boarding.

My life has been quite busy with beach activities, farmer’s markets and local events this summer. The thing is, this is Hawaii. I can to do these things year round.

Surfing rocks!

sand Kailua

You my not know it but I have a disability that prevents me from doing most activities that require leg strength. I get around with a walker or mobility scooter which separates me from people. My forays into nature are quite mild these days – reading in the park, gardening on my lanai. I rarely have the opportunity to absorb myself deep into the natural environment.

Last weekend however I had the chance to participate in AccessSurf’s program. I was escorted into the ocean by two friendly volunteers who helped me float among the waves. I think it’s been at least twenty years since I’ve been deeper than me knees into a body of water other than a pool. It felt wonderful to just feel the wawes rushing around me.

But the best part was the surfing. Yes, it was a modified version of surfing aided by a whole team of instructors and volunteers but it was a blast. I laid down on a very long surfboard modified with handles on the sand and the team lifted me and carried be into the water.

My instructor Chris hopped on the board behind me and paddled out into the waves. It was a decent surf day at White Plains Beach with waves of 4-5 feet. Because of the size and weight of two people on a big board, I had to take the brunt of the waves as we splashed through to get out far enough. Luckily another surfer had loaned me his surfing sunglasses so my contacts stayed put. The water was so clean. I’m used to New Jersey water. This was totally different.

Just the ride out was fun but once we turned around and caught a wave, I was in love. It was so fun. Powering through the foaming aqua water was exhilarating. Floating on top of a massive expanse of liquid with some control but just letting the wave take you was so empowering.

AccessSurf provides this program once a month for disabled people of all kinds and also a separate program for Wounded Warriors. Through donations and volunteers participants are provided with equipment, instruction and even a picnic.

Here’s a video of my day at the beach. I hope to return soon.

Books about Hawai’i

As I settle into Hawaiian life, I find myself wanting to learn more about the history and culture of the islands. When I was preparing for the move I turned to several guidebooks to research where to live and what to expect but didn’t have the time to explore the rich history of Hawai’i. So here are a few books that are primers for living the aloha way.

Moving to Hawaii: A Step-By-Stp Guide by Michele Meyer was my go to guide for all questions moving related. Michele has a well-orgaized website and clearly written book that addresses many aspects of daily life in Hawaii such as cost of living, finding a home, enrolling in school, and questions you should ask yourself before you make the move. The link below takes you to the author’s website where you can start answering these questions yourself.

Moving To Hawaii

Now, moving on to the more classic, traditional Hawaiian books.

James Michener’s Hawaii is a book that I’ve been aware of my whole life since it sat on my family’s bookshelf but I never gave it any consideration until I moved here. It’s length is intimidating and I admit that I’m just getting started with reading it.

This book of historical fiction takes you through the geology, evolution and cultural development of the islands. This book was first published in 1959 and there is some cultural insensitivity within the story that may not be for everyone. Just because it’s dated doesn’t mean it’s not a good read. I’ll let you know once I’ve finished it.

Until then, here’s some quick quotes of reviews posted on Amazon.

“Wonderful . . . [a] mammoth epic of the islands.”The Baltimore Sun

“One novel you must not miss! A tremendous work from every point of view—thrilling, exciting, lusty, vivid, stupendous.”Chicago Tribune

“From Michener’s devotion to the islands, he has written a monumental chronicle of Hawaii, an extraordinary and fascinating novel.”Saturday Review

“Memorable . . . a superb biography of a people.”Houston Chronicle

Here’s Jame’s Michener’s Hawaii.

 Kailua

The other book I’m currently reading is Eddiie Would Go: The Story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian Hero and Pioneer of Big Wave Surfing by Stuart Holmes Coleman. This is a much easier book to read than Hawaii. It transforms a tragic, true story of a surfer who lost his life to the ocean into a tale of a Hawaiian waterman’s strength, courage and goodwill that has inspired surfers for decades. I’m much more likely to finish this story.

Eddie Would Go

I’ve been looking for books on the flora and fauna of the islands but have yet to find any that I really like. I’ll keep searching.

 

 

 

Hawaii fruit and vegetable explorations.

Since I moved to Oahu from the mainland over three months ago, I’ve decided to embrace the new variety of produce that is available. I decided to try a new fruit or vegetable each week. There are some things that look interesting, but if I can’t learn its name, I don’t buy it because I can’t look up what to do with it.

I learned my lesson with that the hard way. For instance, papaya seeds, while having a nice peppery taste can cause some intestinal distress. Oops. I learned from a traditional Hawaiian healing book at the library that it was believed the the seeds prevented cancer so maybe it all works out.

Here’s a list of things I’ve tried so far. I may have forgotten a few.

Sea asparagus – salty but makes a good pesto.

Papaya – many varieties, good in smoothies. Best when really soft.

Apple bananas – nice, small size, a little less sweet but not that different from normal bananas.

Starfruit – nice garnish in cocktails. Juicy and light.

Pomegranate – sweet and colorful but a lot of work. Fruit caviar! Will stain your clothes.

Permission – several varieties, delicate when ripe, handle with care.

Egg fruit – dry, hard boiled egg yolk texture. Interesting and probably good mixed with something (I saw cheesecake recipes).

Some produce is only available for a few weeks so I missed out on trying dragon fruit and breadfruit as well as these red little sea urchin looking things whose names I never learned.

In my kitchen, almost any fruit or vegetable is likely to end up in the blender or juicer, so if I’m not crazy about one, toss it in with a banana and it’s all good.

pretty smoothie

What I’m reading now.

I usually have at least two or three books that I’m reading at one time with several others that I’ve started but haven’t committed to reading yet. My cut off is 60 pages. If I’m not hooked by then it usually doesn’t get completed. If I find myself thinking about a book during the day then that’s a book I’m probably going to finish even if it’s not a subject that usually interests me.

When I log on to my Kindle I like to start off with something that’s going to make me think, read a few pages and then move on to the entertainment.

.Clara

So, right now my fluff entertainment is Susan Vreeland’s Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel. http://www.amazon.com/Clara-Mr-Tiffany-Susan-Vreeland-ebook/dp/B004C43FEI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1390859090&sr=1-1&keywords=clara+and+mr+tiffany

It’s a lovely story of what it might have been like to be a single woman in the 1890’s in New York. Mr. Tiffany is preparing his glass pieces for the World’s Fair in Chicago and the newly widowed Clara returns to her former employer to help. Mr. Tiffany did not believe in hiring married women so Clara is thrilled to be back working in the arts.

My more thoughtful book right now is Anthony Robbins Awaken the Giant Within. http://www.amazon.com/Awaken-Giant-Within-Anthony-Robbins-ebook/dp/B001EM101Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390949710&sr=8-1&keywords=re-awaken+the+giant+within

This is an older book of his but still useful. I read it in little bits.

I also just received this book as a gift and am mostly skimming through it. Dr. Walter Crinnion’s Clean, Green & Lean. http://www.amazon.com/Clean-Green-Lean-Toxins-That-ebook/dp/B00DNKYI8E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390950179&sr=8-1&keywords=clean+green+and+lean

It is a diet book but it is primarily about detoxing your body by making the reader aware of which foods to avoid and which are beneficial.

Spend some time reading something you enjoy today.

 

Changing up my food.

Since I recently moved to Hawaii from the mainland, I’ve decided to embrace the new variety of produce that is available. I decided to try a new fruit or vegetable each week. There are some things that look interesting, but if I can’t learn its name, I don’t buy it.

There’s a reason for that. My first few experiments could have been potentially disastrous.