The Doppler Takes Europe

This summer, my family embarked on an action-packed 10 days in London and Paris. It was my daughter’s first trip out of the country so, peak tourism season be damned, we hit up the major sites. That led to a lot of walking and standing. My leg/ankle/foot, aptly named “The Doppler” due to it’s weather predicting capabilities, were definitely feeling the effects.

Traveling with an ankle fusion means dealing with constant pain and swelling. I have to plan sitting breaks and find ways to prop up my foot when it starts “talkin’ to me.”

Basically, the Doppler is a fickle travel buddy.

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Paris at night

Our family travel style is hit-the-ground-running and get the most bang for our buck. We prefer to use public transportation, for the experience and to spare some costs, so there is a lot of walking involved.

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Long trek to the apartment. Hubs took over my bag.

Lugging suitcases through the streets, standing at bus stops, up and down stairs to the subway, hustling to catch a train – they all add up to a rich experience but it takes a toll on my foot.

I was putting in no fewer than 18,000 steps and 10-20 flights of stairs per day. I had at least three consecutive days of 20k steps. I developed a blister on my toe during the last few days of our trip. I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with our fast-paced adventure. It’s challenging enough on healthy feet! I didn’t want to be the one holding us back.

I took a breath and tried not to stress. Here are a few things I did to save my feet:

Footwear. This is obvious but key. It’s tricky to coordinate my “comfy” shoes with travel outfits, especially when your shoes are complicated like mine . When going to the theater or out to a nice dinner, I’m not going to wear my tennies. A few months back I bought silver img_9123Birkenstocks, which are basically my version of a dress shoe. Those in rotation with a tennis shoe and a pair of Adidas gave me options for different looks yet still comfortable.

Rotation. I tried to pack light but I need shoe options. My foot feels different everyday so it’s hard to predict which shoe will feel good on any given day. I typically pack three — one pair in my carry on, one in the suitcase and I wear a pair on the plane.

Changing shoes throughout a day of sightseeing was helpful when I felt blisters coming on. If I wore tennis shoes during the day, I would put the Birks on at night. Many times we were gone all day, so I brought an extra pair with me. A little bulky in the backpack but worth it.

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Summer rain in London

Soaking. Luckily we had bathtubs in both of our Airbnbs. After a full day of traipsing around the city in hot weather (not much A/C in Europe) I would get home and run cold water over my feet. I would follow that up with a soak in warmish water for 10 minutes*.

*Epsom salt would’ve taken my soak up a notch. Adding a cup or so a warm bath helps with pain and swelling. 

Elevation. I like to elevate my leg at night to reduce swelling and promote good circulation. This was especially necessary when we spent hours walking through the Louvre and touring the Palace of Versailles.

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Tourists at Versailles

Piggybacks. Last but not least, my husband is a true Boy Scout. He carries my bags and always holds out an arm when I’m climbing stairs or hopping off a bus. Most importantly, he offers piggybacks anytime, anywhere. 90% of the time I don’t partake (I’m embarrassed). However, by the end of our first full day in Paris, day six of our European trip, I took him up on it.

End of a loooong day

We were almost home and I couldn’t muster another step. I hopped on, skirt and all,  and was so grateful that he is always game (and our daughter is always ready with her camera).

When I was injured at 23, I thought I was facing a life of wheelchairs, scooters and sedentary activities. Doctors told me I’d deal with chronic pain and walking difficulties for the rest of my life. I never thought I’d be able to enjoy traveling.

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Sitting a spell

My car accident happened 15 years ago today.  It’s the Doppler anniversary! I do face chronic pain and walking difficulties. However, I’ve learned a few things: life goes on, you adapt and try not to sell yourself short.

Plan trips; Test your limits; Sit when you need to.

And never turn down a piggyback.

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Wait(ing) For It

 

In celebration of the new year, we planned our first family trip to New York City. We were so excited to visit famous landmarks and museums, but especially looking forward to seeing as many Broadway shows as possible.

Quick backstory: our household became obsessed with Hamilton: An American Musical last year when our 13-year-old started playing the soundtrack non-stop and energized our desire to see live theater. We knew it was nearly impossible to score tickets to Hamilton in New York since it’s sold out months in advance. As our trip approached, we convinced ourselves not to hold out hope of seeing it. That is until we got to the city.

Hamilton 3.jpgWe arrived in NYC on Saturday morning. By Sunday, we were standing outside of the Richard Rogers theater taking pictures and soaking in the Hamilton vibe. We talked to the door man and got some insight on getting tickets via the cancellation line. By Tuesday we were standing in that line, hoping for our shot at the most hyped musical on the planet.

Here’s the skinny on scoring day-of tickets through the cancellation line: be one of the first 10 people in line on any given show day and you have a 98% (give or take) chance of getting a ticket. On Tuesday afternoon, we strolled by the theater, realized we would be 14-16th in line and decided, “why not?” It was raining and we didn’t have plans for the rest of the day. We made new friends and listened to the urban legends of Hamilton tickets. “They let in 21 people yesterday!” and “They’ll release a bunch of standing-room-only tickets for $10!”  We waited from 2 pm until the 7:05 pm curtain.

We didn’t make the cut.

Bummed but not surprised, we sprinted to Chicago and got tickets for that instead. It was great! We saw Kinky Boots on Wednesday and it was fantastic. It was even better than Chicago but we still had Hamilton on the brain. If these other shows were so great how amazing could Hamilton be?! We were dying to find out.

Thursday was our last night in the city and my husband decided this was it. He planned on getting to the cancellation line early. He would stake out a spot in the front of the line and wait as long as necessary to get his girls tickets to this show. Freezing temperatures be damned, he would wait for it and make Hamilton happen!

By 9:45 a.m. we were the 4-6th in line. My husband stayed in line all day while my daughter and I came and went, bringing food and warm drinks; ducking into nearby hotels for a few minutes of warmth in the restroom; shopping for souvenirs at the official Hamilton store down the block. We made friends with our line cohorts and we kept each other entertained throughout the long day of waiting. A professional line sitter, who had seen the show so many times he’d lost count, and was first in line at 5 a.m. was the self-appointed one. He gave us the skinny on all the shows and various cast members. Also keeping us company on the cold cement steps of the Richard Rogers Theater was our Hawaiian friend who flew to New York by himself just to see Hamilton. And let’s not forget the 18-year-old newlywed couple from Virginia who spent their honeymoon waiting in line on a freezing New York day for a shot at tickets.

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Hanging outside the theater with our new friends on the coldest day of our trip

Happily, it all paid off. Around 5:30 p.m. they released a few tickets and we scored front row seats to the 7 p.m. show! I was so elated I sprained my ‘good foot’ during my celebratory jumping and squealing. Our fellow line friends also got in. It was a lucky day for everyone!hamilton-2

Our review of the show: amazing. It lived up to our high expectations and I say, without a hint of sarcasm, it was absolutely worth sitting outside in the cold for eight hours. My husband agrees.

We were so familiar with the original cast soundtrack that it took a minute to absorb that it was happening right in front of us. Being in the front row put us in the line of fire for all of the sweat and energy oozing from the cast. We saw the spit spray as they belted our beloved tunes to the balcony seats. What we lost in perspective, we gained in the details of the costumes, choreography and facial expressions that may have been lost a few rows back.

Looking back now, it really blew our minds. I’m pretty sure Angelica smiled at me while I was bawling during the curtain call. Jaelynn swears King George scowled right at her. It was her favorite moment of the show.

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Our view of the Hamilton stage from the front row

It was a perfect way to end our most excellent New York adventure.

Coldplay On a School Night

On Sunday afternoon, the day before my daughter’s first day of school, my husband and I grabbed some coffee and drove down to Pasadena, Ca, to see Coldplay at the Rose Bowl. We would drive back the same night, get up today for our first day of school traditions and head off to work on a few hours of sleep.

Why would we do this? Although we enjoy Coldplay, seeing them live was not on our bucket list. More importantly, we are certainly not in our 20s anymore. Driving to LA and back for a show on a school night, only to get up early the next morning, is not something we seek out. Anymore.

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These concert tickets were not intended for us but we came into them in a profound way. They were purchased by Donna Hammond, a dear and longtime friend of my husband’s, as a celebration for her completion of chemotherapy and radiation. After battling breast cancer all of last year, she was in remission and her treatment was over. However, as one terrible event had come to an end, she and her family were struck with another blow.

coldplay 1Donna’s husband, Big Jim, died suddenly of a heart attack a couple weeks ago. My husband, and anyone who knows the Hammond family, was deeply shocked and saddened by the passing of this bigger than life patriarch. He was a sweet man who left a big imprint those he knew and loved, my husband included.

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Our lovely friend in Houston uses this saying frequently when acknowledging her own battle with cancer. We figure it’s appropriate for this occasion too.

Donna and her daughter had to forego their Coldplay celebration but asked Corin and me to take their place at the show. We were honored by her generous request. The concert itself was a joyous, spirited, colorful celebration of music and life. It felt like the perfect representation of why Donna was going in the first place, fireworks and confetti included.

 

Our hearts were with the Hammonds last night and everything they’ve been through. The gratitude we felt is still with us today.

Who needs sleep anyway?

 

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Around Paisley Park in a Day

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April 21, 2016 was a painful day for the millions who loved The Purple One. I was in tears at work; I’ve been a Prince fan for as long as I can remember. There was never a time I didn’t listen to his music.

As a kid, his 80s hits were the soundtrack to the dance parties I had with my cousins. As a teen, I rediscovered Purple Rain.

As an adult, I dove deeper into his archives and wondered how one man could be so talented. I caught my first Prince concert then, fueling my admiration. I love the emotional highs and sultry lows of his vocal range. His command of the stage and his dance moves were everythingHe fearlessly pushed boundaries while always keeping his focus on the music.

My focus, months after his death, was on a different type of pain.

My doctor was confident that pain from my toe surgery would subside within a week and walking wouldn’t be a problem. Taking his advice, we planned our final trip of the summer to Minnesota, 10 days after surgery.

I like my doctor but he’s a fibber.

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The constant throbbing pain and swelling I was experiencing was more than I’d anticipated. As our five-day trip to see friends and family approached, so did my reservations. I figured flying would be tricky and my limitations may put a damper on the trip for everyone.

Navigating TSA is annoying on a normal day. Throw in a leg brace and a cane and it’s nightmarish.

 

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Aside from the air travel, we had a great time. I was able to rent a wheelchair at the Minnesota History Museum, Mall of America and Valley Fair amusement park so getting around wasn’t much of a problem. My restrictions forced more down time, out of character for us, but turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

No trip is complete without a few hiccups. The most notable was getting banned from a roller coaster at Valley Fair just as we were getting on. We didn’t know my brace would be a problem until after we waited in the 30-minute line. Apparently I didn’t miss out.

This leads me to my favorite adventure: the paisley one.

There will never be another Prince. I’m still sad but was thrilled to see his studio where so much incredible music was created. Tributes from all over the world lined the surrounding fence. Everything from fan art and purple roller skates to underwear and bags of Doritos were left to honor the artist, months after his death.

Here is a taste of the memorials found at Paisley Park in Chanhassen, MN:prince 2_edited-2

 

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Our trip was a much needed escape from Fresno’s summer heat and polluted air. I couldn’t get over the blue in the Minnesota sky or the puff of its clouds. The time we spent with our family and friends was worth the inconvenience of my bum foot.