Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Zumba Class and a Kilt?

Ah, there you are! It's been a long, busy week or so here in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea, and now that it is officially Spring, we have more snow and colder temps than ever! The Groundhog lied... damned rodentia... So how to stay warm and also work off some of that Winter Weight that we all seem to acquire? Plus you still want to do something to help Team Issy (see my last blog, and please keep Sharing it) don't you? We really need for this go viral, and yes you can help by merely spreading the good word! 

Well, my friend, have I got a deal for you! Ever heard of Zumba? No, it's not some type of broomstick flying races from Harry Potter (darn it!). It's a type of exercise class that mostly combines some fun dance music, and moves, to give you a really good Cardio workout. At least that's what I've been told. WunderWife has been going to a Zumba Class for some months now, and I can happily tell you that it has done her a lot of good! Of course, it's not easy to improve upon perfection, mind you, but her wonderful, sexy curves are becoming curvalicious again! As George Takei would say, "Oh myyyyyyyyy..."

So the gal that runs this Zumba Class, Denita Kells,  decided to do a class, and take donations to give Issy, for her stay at the treatment facility. The class was held at the Betsie Hosick Fitness Center, which also donated the use of a room. When our dear Denita announced she was doing this, then another great gal and very dear friend, Kate Withington-Edwards made it into a Facebook Event, and invited a lot of people, myself included. Well, of course I had a great laugh at that! Yeah... right... me in a Zumba class? Every time WunderWife Barb and I go to the Fitness Center, as she disappears into the classroom, all the ladies keep swooning and yelling for me to join them. Which always gives me a chuckle as I go on to the Circuit Machine room to do my Cardio workout. Honestly, I'm not really one for those types of classes, and can easily embarrass myself in front of a room full of women without being sweaty and stinky. Plus, after taking the Pilates for Dummies Class (really) I've decided that the classes seem to be designed for people who are already skinny? Great class, but I hafta work about three times as hard to get around my Bear Belly as do the "Skinny Innies" that normally reside there. 

Well, my dear friends, this time I was challenged. And not merely content to challenge me, Kate also challenged me to do the class in a kilt! Seems that she somehow knows that not only do I have both a formal kilt outfit (Prince Argyle style) but also a less formal, lightweight, Military style kilt. And yes, I do enjoy wearing them! Guys, I am here to tell ya, women positively go all agog at a gent in a kilt!! No, it is most certainly NOT wearing a skirt! And yes, the gals all love it!! I think the real reason English have Scots in the very front of the line, in military action, is that they know the guys wearing a kilt will get all the attention from the damsels when it's over? 

But back to our story... so yes, I was challenged alright. And just to add insult to injury, this particular class was held at about the same time that I generally wake up? Oh, just kill me now! I ruminate (don't ya just love that word?) for a few days, and then rationalize that if I show up, and put some dollars in the coffer, then I can make a quick exit from class, and nobody will be the wiser. Right? Wrong.

WunderWife and I arrive at the appointed time (and wearing a kilt in Winter is a very refreshing experience, I assure you), and the fun begins! About half of them couldn't possibly imagine what in the world am I doing?! The few gals that really do know me came running up and smothered me with hugs and kisses (see guys, the kilt works!)!! Suddenly my morning got a whole lot brighter!

To say that I stumbled my way thru my first ever Zumba Class would be, well, not even close to the mark. I wasn't nearly that competent! Seems that every time the class went right, I fell left. And then trying to see what to do in the mirror made me visually dyslexic as well! Plus then you're (apparently) supposed to do something with your arms besides windmilling into your neighbors as you fall down? Whoda thunk? But Denita set a good pace, and kept the moves fun, and did a great job of coaching us with hand signals, and whoops, and shouts and other various noisy accouterments. The gals all got to wear lacy belts with bells, but as I already had my Great Belt holding up my kilt, I thought better of it? Not that I generally mind pushing the envelope, but sometimes too much really is.

Let's just say that I had a blast! No, really! I got to get in an intense cardio workout, in a class of great gals (yes, I was the only rooster in the henhouse) and wear a kilt! Oh, and we raised $270!! About enough for a third of a day at her treatment facility. What could possibly go wrong? Well... let's just say that many of the gals kept trying to discover what a Scotsman wears under his kilt... and leave it at that! Silainte!

Friday, March 15, 2013

My 13 Year Old Hero & Family

No, not my hero when I was 13 years old, rather a true hero (and she doesn't know it) with Super Hero sibs and parents, of today! This is, by far, the most difficult blog I have written. Usually I take you, gentle reader, to some wonderful trip with me, and maybe explore some neato NASA stuff, or play tourist in Life.

Well, today you may wish to put your tray-tables in their locked, upright positions, it's gonna be a bumpy ride. And yes, do fasten your seat belts as well.

This story starts about 13 years ago really. That was when a beautiful baby girl was born to some very loving, and wonderful parents: Kelli and Matt. The new girl, Issy, was second in the line of sibs, preceded by her older brother and would be followed by a younger sister.

As a baby, then toddler, it was apparent that dear Issy had issues. Fast forward and discover that she has Autism. Not just the run of the mill, garden variety of Autism that you think you know about. Nope... Issy is wired such that she becomes violent. No, I don't mean she yells and throws a tantrum. I mean she she yells and hits and kicks, and is a true force of Nature. Twice Issy has put her mother Kelli in the hospital with closed head injuries! Issy is a big girl for her age, and Kelli is a bit short of petite. The term "Punching Bag" comes to mind. Issy has also manifested against her younger sister, and her Dad. For whatever reason big brother is usually left alone?

So, for years, Kelli, and Matt have tried everything to get some help for this daughter that they both love dearly. You name it, they have tried it. Nothing was working. At all. Issy would explode at the drop of a hat. (Don't say "No", don't make eye contact!) Really the family was just about completely "gave out" as we would say up here. They estimated that they've spent about $60,000 on Issy in the past 12 years! Financially speaking they really are "gave out"!

But, as Paul Harvey used to say, here's the "rest of the story"... In February of this year Issy was placed at Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research . AND IT'S WORKING!!! For the very first time in her young life, Issy is getting it!! But (and ya just knew there had to be one, didn't ya?) this comes at a price. A very hefty price. Somewhere around $770 per day of a price. *big gulp* Oh wait, that's okay 'cause Insurance will pick up the tab, right? Wrong. You see, in the fair State of Michigan, in the most perfect example of cronyism ever, the State Legislature has ruled that Autism isn't a Mental Health Issue, and therefore Insurance companies (looks directly at Blue Cross) DON'T have to pay. Yeah... Autism isn't a Mental Health Issue... right.

So our little community has truly banded together to help. We've put on dinners, bake sales, more dinners, and even an upcoming Zumba Class (wherein I've been challenged not only to attend, but wear my kilt?!) and now shirts. When we talk with people they remark how wonderful it is that we've raised $4,000, or $5,000 and think well that's that. I am here to assure you all that it isn't! We've only been able to raise enough funds to keep Issy there until late May (as of this writing). But she needs to stay until Thanksgiving ! That's right, she needs the full course of treatment, and that means she needs stay until the end of November (sorry, for those in Canada our Turkey Day, not yours). Oh, and how do I know these people you ask? They attend my Church, and are very active in our community! Matt is Principal at the local High School, as well as being the Football and Basketball coach. Kelli has a great gig with Birth Stories On Demand and both of them serve on the town council! Also the older son, and younger daughter are sparkling examples of what it means to live in Northern Michigan! They are great people, and I am honored to call them my friends!

So, what can you do? Simply put, you can share this story with every Social Media outlet at your fingertips! #TeamIssy needs this to go viral. We need to have everyone share this until penguins in Antarctica are wearing Team Issy shirts!! We need for each of you to share, repost, twit and plus this out. The hope is that this story will find just the right person to really make it a going concern. Maybe a TV, Radio or Film Producer? Maybe someone who has connections to a philanthropic endeavor? That is how you can help. Please get the word out! Oh sure, if you can donate a couple of bucks, that would be very appreciated as well. But really, this is a plea for voice, not money. And you can be a part of the voice that get Issy the help she needs. You can be a part of this loving journey, for Issy, and her family, and our community. 

So, with that, I am going to include some links. This first link is to Kelli's blog that started the journey for most of us. Take a minute to read it. Take a minute to watch the video. Mind you, it is disturbing. But after you do that, then read some of her latest blogs. This journey starts out in a very dark place, but all of us are trying to shed more and more love and light! 

Dancing On the Edge Kelli's blog about what Autism has done to her family. This is MUST link to share!
Facebook: Team Issy 
Twitter: @TeamIssy 
If you wish to donate (all proceeds go towards her cost of treatment): The Elberta Alert

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tourists On The Waddle... In Dee Cee.

Welcome back kidz, time for another exciting chapter in what passes for so-called "real" life! This post is a follow up to my previous regarding the NASA Social in Washington DC. The emphasis today shall be on touring around our nation's Capitol, and such.

So let me begin by saying that WunderWife and I traveled from our home (The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea) by car to South Bend Indiana, there to go on by Amtrak. What  lovely way to travel back and forth across the country. The service was great, the food wonderful, and the lack of tension and The Defartment of Home Made Security (You know, TSA; Totally Sucking Arse) made for a pleasant journey, there and back again. We both enjoyed being able to stretch our legs, have some interesting conversations, and wake up at our destinations! Next time you travel, time permitting, Amtrak is worth a look. And at less than half the price of airlines, it becomes quite attractive!

So, we're in DC, and have a couple of days to kill. We actually planned to stay on after the NASA Social so we could play tourist, and explore. And Washington DC did not disappoint! Our hotel was a couple of blocks from the National Mall (no, not the Mall where Elvis lives, but rather a ginormous area with lots of historic buildings). Having a limited budget for time, we concentrated on seeing as much of this area as we could. Along the way, one of our new best-friends-for-life and fellow #SpaceTweep, Chad decided to stay over for a day and hoof around with us. This was great as he is quite the local historian! Mind you, it took WunderWife to read the map, but between the three of us, we covered a LOT of ground!

Instead of going thru each and every building in excruciating detail,  I'm gonna more or less paint the scenes with a broad brush, and in a hurry, much the way we waltzed around the Mall ourselves. We started out at the Easterly end, a few blocks from the Capitol Building. That's where the "We sucked the fun out of Dysfunctional Congress" people don't appear to be doing very much for our Country? So we didn't go. (insert chuckles here) 

Instead, we proceeded down towards the Washington Monument. It is (by law) the tallest structure in DC, and a wonderful visual reference if you ever need to know where you are! Since it's closed for upgrades, and since we weren't about to attempt to climb that mountain, we enjoyed from afar!

So down we go to the World War II Memorial. This is by far the largest Memorial on the Mall (as far as we could tell) and very impressive! It was designed, and built as a centerpiece and it succeeds admirably. 

As we continue to the Lincoln Memorial, we discover that the Reflecting Poll has a herd of ducks living there (probably on Government Assistance) and the bitingly cold wind has created a rough surface on the Pool, so no Reflecting? But very beautiful!

Then up a gazillion steps to see Honest Abe atop his throne, and again, the sense of history is palpable. I'll link to more pictures at the bottom of this post.

Saying farewell to Mr. Lincoln and we head to the Viet Nam Memorial Wall. Again, very moving, and brings back so many personal memories of a very turbulent time. Interesting that The Wall actually starts at ground level, and rises up to head height,  then gradually down again to the ground. Also do NOT miss the sculpture of three soldiers, and don't miss the VN Nurses sculpture either!

So, for a bit of light-hearted history, we hoofed across to the Einstein Memorial, which is quite well thought out, especially with the regards to the Star Map on the floor! WunderWife could hardly sit in old Al's lap before sliding off!

Back across the Mall we go to explore the Korean War Memorial, which I thought to be the most sobering. Life sized sculptures, done quite realistically, of a patrol going thru scrub brush, and an accompanying Wall with etchings. when you approach the Wall, and see the reflection of the sculptures, you get goose bumps.

We proceed over towards the FDR Memorial, which we all agreed reminded us of a Zoo? Then the MLK Memorial (we all agreed our least favorite and most poorly done). Seems a national shame they gave him such a poorly designed Memorial.

On to the Jefferson, and more steps (why yes please and thank you) and thru the biting wind. We gave Tom our regards and decided to schlep back to the hotel. We had been hiking along, and basking in, all the history and beauty of these Memorials for five straight hours now! Very strong sunshine (Yay!) and very cold wind (Ouch!) made for three very tired, but happy folks.

We bid adieu to Chad at his Metro Station, and thanked for him going with us. His knowledge of the history of the place made each item all the more personal to us!

The next day and a half, before we rail back to the Midwest, we toured even more! We went thru some more Smithsonian Museums (they're FREE!) and over to the White House. Barack and Michelle must not have known we were there, as they didn't invite us in for lunch? Did you know that there was a time when the average person could just show up at the White House (as long as it was Thursday afternoon) and the President would receive you, personally, so you could chat? No, really!

Ah well, lastly I need mention the food in this fair city. The food was great! From the Turkish Steak Wrap we had for breakfast one day from a food truck, to the Hamilton, Carmine's and even The Old Ebbit Grille, it was all fantastic! Good thing we did all that walking, or we both would have added a few pounds?

If you have the time, you need to see our nations's Capitol. The sense of history there is unlike any other place in America. The people are warm and friendly, and the prices are lower than NYC! But when you go, plan for about a week! Once you get there, you realize that there is so much to do, you don't want to short change yourself!

If you wish to see more of my photos from this trip, please go to: