Chewing on Challenges

Pattye Snyder Health Guide
  • People never cease to amaze me, and not always in a positive way.  For the last three years, as my osteoarthritis has continued to progress (still can’t figure out why that’s called progress), I’ve gotten rather behind in some of the projects around my house.  Not being able to walk, bend, or balance well after a couple of total hip replacements and three additional surgeries on my foot and ankle—compliments of OA—five major orthopedic surgeries in three years just seemed to interrupt my “schedules!” 


    My philosophy has always been, since I started my small custom landscaping company, that my own yard should be at least quasi-presentable.  I tell people if I were going to hire someone to do my own landscape, I would take a peek at their yard.  If it truly looked horrible, why would I want to hire them!  A couple of weeks ago, I declared my yard an overgrown mess and vowed to cure the problem.  On days when osteoarthritis isn’t rearing its ugly painful head as much, I’ve been sawing and chopping in an attempt to return my backyard jungle to a photo-op for Better Homes and Garden (actually, I’d settle for just making it more manageable!).  

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    Yesterday, a neighbor came by and silently WATCHED me at work.  He finally commented that when I was finished with my yard, I could come over and do the same for his.  He even offered to “let me” put the bags of his lawn waste out in front of his house when I had everything cleaned up and bundled.  Gosh—such an opportunity!  With anyone else, I would have laughed, knowing they were joking.  NOT SO with this guy—he really expected me to come do his work for him, and obviously he didn’t offer any $$$ or offer to help me!  He’s really lucky I’m such a nice person, because I had my chainsaw in my hand when this opportunity came up—so I politely laughed, and kept working!


    I will do almost anything for anyone at any time, but can’t seem to always get it through my thick head that many others don’t feel the same, obviously!


    I’m back on the road to my adventure traveling next week.  I’ll be flying to Northern Ontario for a backwoods canoe adventure—the first time I’ve tried canoeing since I became a “robot.”  I’ll be traveling with an adventure company who encourages healthy people with physical challenges to keep exploring.  I also went with them a couple of years ago to canoe through the Florida Everglades, learned to drive a dogsled in Ontario (in the winter of course), and I will also be working with them on a backcountry trip in Yellowstone in August!


    I’ve had many people ask HOW I come up with these adventures, and WHERE I find them.  The reality, is, although I tend to be a workaholic, I’m also, very much, a people person!  I take the time to talk (and listen) to people—I love adventure, and am more willing to try new things as I get older and more physically challenged.


    Just thinking about it, I realized that since OA “moved in” with me, I’ve climbed Machu Picchu (Peru), and part of Mt. Meru (Africa), fished for piranha in the Amazon, gone on ziplines in Costa Rica, learned to snowshoe AND drive a dogsled (Ontario), danced with the Maasai women on the Serengetti, sailed on a historic vessel off the coast of Maine, gone 4X4 rock face climbing in a jeep (Arizona), flew in an open cockpit biplane, white-water rafted (in a couple of countries), and even flew in a powered parachute.  I’ve been able to travel in five continents and 29 countries since I retired from teaching ten years ago.  I realize that many people think cost is a major problem, but I’ve found that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”  I work extremely hard in the three small companies I’ve started, and travel and learning are passions for me!

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    When I had my first total hip replacement at the age of 62, I commented to friends that I planned on climbing Mt.Kilimanjaro for my 65th birthday—of course this was several surgeries ago. 


    When I was about eight years old, I fell in love with the Africa that I saw in the National Geographic magazines.  I have now hiked or traveled on parts of six of the countries in this huge continent.  I had heard about a volunteer organization a couple of years ago that does work in Africa, but had an interruption as I became bionic!   I firmly believe that things happen for a reason—about a month ago, I suddenly received an e-mail from this company (out of the proverbial “clear blue”), offering me a job in Bangkok.  I wasn’t interested in that country, but looked up my favorite one on their Web site out of curiosity.  To make a long story short, I will be going to Tanzania (at the foot of “my” mountain) to live in a small fishing village called Rau.  In the mornings, I will work with kids in an orphanage; afternoons, I have a variety of classes all over the country; evenings and weekends, I’m free (and encouraged) to explore the country further.  I will not only be learning more about their culture, but learning to dance, sing, and a wide variety of other activities.  Of course my major project now, is to become proficient in Swahili! 


    I will be living in Tanzania for eight weeks, and am grateful I don’t leave for a few months, because there’s an incredible amount of things to take care of.  I suppose the final “sign” for me with this experience—I discovered late one night that my “start date” (the day I begin work) is ON MY 65TH BIRTHDAY.  I told a friend—it beats the heck out of chocolate cake!



Published On: July 02, 2007