Saturday, 5 November 2016

Conquering The Saddle!

Hello there sunshine and welcome to another post!

My spirits were slightly low as I dressed in my ski gear for our final day in Whistler. With us leaving the next day, and this being our last day of skiing for the season, everything felt bittersweet. Had I known what was in store for me that morning I might have been more excited... All I knew was that Scott was taking me to ski The Saddle. Going up the gondola, The Saddle was just another run, coming down the gondola at the end of the day, The Saddle would represent victory and freedom. And one of the most terrifying runs I've ever been on... This day, with its mix of victory and terror, will forever hold the title "favourite ski adventure of 2016"! Whistler will have a special place in my heart because of it...

"That's The Saddle right there," Scott said on the way up the Peak chair. I glanced at The Saddle, then at Scott, then at Sarah. Sarah, the president of Whistler Adaptive and an all around fantastic human being, skied with us for the morning and took part in our glorious adventure. While riding the chair, we talked about our programs, which left me feeling slightly small in comparison to the superiority of Sarah's role as president of such a hugely successful program. I also attempted to tease Scott into feeling intimidated about sitting next to two lady presidents. My attempts to intimidate Scott are usually futile... Intimidating people in general is not my strong point... I took another sideways glance at The Saddle. "It doesn't look so bad," said my mind. Well reader, my mind was wrong... Yes, from the chairlift The Saddle did look non-threatening, but it is an entirely different beast when you're at the top of it.

Had Scott given me a moment's pause at the top, I may have had time to reconsider attempting to ski it. The Saddle is by far the steepest run I have ever looked down upon, and the fact that Scott wanted me to ski it made me wonder what I did to make him want to kill me. Maybe that was his plan all along, and he convinced Sarah to be in on it too! "Maybe I should've told my mother I loved her before leaving," I thought to myself. Giving me time to pull out of something is not Sir Scott's style, which I know all too well now... We barrelled over the top of The Saddle with no hesitation whatsoever, until we heard the sound...The sound that has the same skin-crawling effect as nails on a chalkboard... The sound was pure, rock hard ice under our skis... Neither of us had expected that. We pulled off to the side immediately to collect ourselves. I think this was the first time in our skiing together that Scott was noticeably nervous. I tried to distract myself by watching the other skiers, only to see that most of them were SIDESLIPPING down the run. Ironic if you ask me... Sarah had already made her way down the run and was filming us from the bottom. Filming our epic crash that would receive millions of views on Youtube. I'd be dead, but at least I'd be famously dead... My other comfort was in knowing that my mother would most likely kill Scott after discovering that he killed me on The Saddle... At least there's justice in this world!

When we were ready to continue, I took a deep breath, cleared my mind as best as I could, and braced myself for the first turn. If you ski, you might be able to relate to the butterfly feeling you get in your stomach when you make the first turn on a steep slope. I immediately discovered how thrilling those butterflies were. One turn, two turns, and before I knew it we had found our rhythm and were descending the run turn by turn. I'm sure my continuous scream of terror and joy was heard from Whistler all the way back to Fernie.... That's when it hit me. That ultimate sense of freedom that I had been hoping for. I completely forgot that I was in a sit ski, because for once I was doing something exciting and daring, slightly dangerous and at the same time thrilling. As we neared the end of the run, and I realized that I was indeed still alive, fear gave way to pure joy, and I found myself laughing and in tears all at the same time. Scott, who was apparently just as happy as I was to still be alive, began to hoot and holler and yell "THAT WAS AWESOME"! We were both laughing as we spun around and came to a stop at the bottom. The only thing that came to my mind at that moment was, "HOLY SHIT!" But apparently my mind decided thinking holy shit wasn't enough, because before I knew it, holy shit exited my lips with a louder volume than I had anticipated... Scott was pretty amused by this having never heard me swear before, and tried to make me repeat it for the camera, which I ignored. Skiing The Saddle and surviving was one thing... Swearing and surviving my mother is quite another... Her glare is like death...

Scott turned me around so we could stare at The Saddle and try to grasp what we had just done. I felt like I had been given a precious gift as I looked at that slope. There have been many times in my life when I felt like giving something up because of fear. But sit skiing has taught me that fear is the driving force behind victory. The Saddle was like the pinnacle of this journey of self-discovery I have been embarking on. The Saddle was my break through. The fear lasted only a moment, but the joy and the victory will last a lifetime. Conquering The Saddle will forever hold a special place in my heart.

I am forever thankful that I was given the opportunity to ski again this season. What I have seen and done this year was certainly beyond what I could ever imagine, and although not every experience was pleasant, the results have taught me so much about myself and have been a true joy in my life. The instructors who skied with me were my rocket fuel, taking me to new heights, and blessing my life beyond words. To everyone who was involved in my ski adventures this season, I say thank you... Thank you with all of my heart...





 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

I'm a Real Skier Now!

Hello there sunshine! Welcome back to the tales of ski adventuring! This post is brought to you by... Smiling... It's good for you... :)

Being in Whistler was a little surreal for me after having been there for the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Paralympics. Little fourteen-year-old Grace was completely caught up in the spirit of the games that had infected Whistler village many years ago. It was as if this spirit had been saturated into the ground, and into the very walls of the buildings, as twemty-year-old Grace walked through the village. I think the best way to describe Whistler is upbeat. There's a constant excitement that just seems to hang in the air and pulsate through every living creature. The feeling is so real it's almost tangible. But I think to truly know the essence that is Whistler, one must go there and experience it in person, which I highly recommend of course.

Our first day was spent getting to know the workings of Whistler Adaptive Snow Program, a massive, hugely successful, and slightly intimidating program. Winter sports are just one of the many recreational outlets for WASP. We spent the morning listening to presentations by the individuals who make this organization a success. The amount of work and effort it takes to run a program with hundreds of members is completely overwhelming... In comparison, my getting stressed over the 40 members involved with my program seems utterly ridiculous. I crammed so much information into my poor head that morning I felt sure my brain was going to explode. In the afternoon there was even more learning to be done, as we participated in an Autism/cognitive delay course offered exclusively by Whistler Adaptive. By the end of the day I think my brain did explode...

The next day I was up bright and early, buzzing with excitement and anticipation over my first day of skiing. After skiing with me in Fernie, Wylie insisted on being the one to introduce me to all the wonders of Whistler Blackcomb. I must say that being on his own turf made Wylie a completely different person. I've been carefully considering how to describe Wylie so my readers can understand him... Dearest reader, I admit to my own defeat in this circumstance. There are no words I could possibly use to describe Wylie... To attempt it would be an injustice. Furthermore, to praise any of his qualities would only fuel his ego, which is something one simply must not do as a rule. To that effect, Wylie is quiet, boring, plays it safe at all costs, and isn't at all pleasant to be around. There, I tried.

The first day out on skis was really just spent trying to get to know my surroundings, Wylie, and the fact that the mountain is HUGE! It takes two gondola rides to get to the very top, and the weather at mid-mountain can be completely different than at the top. We took it easy to begin with, staying at mid-mountain and going slow. That was partly due to Wylie and I trying to adjust to each other, and partly because it was raining and extremely foggy. I skied all morning, took a lunch break, and went back out again in the afternoon, which I will mention is the longest I've ever skied at one time.

The next day was one of my favourite days of the whole week. Why? It was the first time I had ever been on the very top of a mountain. The day before Wylie had promised he'd take me on the Peak chair, and I spent the whole evening wondering what it was going to be like. Well, if I'm honest, I spent most of the night wondering if I really belonged up there. Going to the top of mountains was for real skiers, and in my mind, I wasn't one of them. I tried to push these thoughts away as we rode the chair to the top. I like to think I have a pretty creative imagination, but not even I could dream up what I saw when we cleared the chairlift. Again this is a scene that my words will fail to describe, other than to say that it was the most majestic view I've ever seen. Wylie let me sit there for a while, drinking in the beauty of my surroundings. One could turn in a complete circle and see mountains on all sides. Each peak has a personality and character of its own. As we skied a little farther, we came to look out over a lake, so crystal clear it reflected the mountains surrounding it with perfect accuracy. Everything I saw felt like a dream, and yet, so wonderful it couldn't be a dream. I couldn't be more thankful that Wylie gave me the opportunity to see the world in such a way. I won't ever be able to forget it.

After coming back to reality, even though it WAS reality which is still hard to believe, Wylie took me to ski an area he knew I'd love. The run weaves through the trees, and when the sunlight shines through the open spaces, it casts the most enchanting shadows on the snow. I kind of felt bad for Wylie, because instead of paying attention to our synchronization, I watched the light and the shadows move as we passed them. As we came to the bottom of the run, I found myself saying something I never in my wildest dreams expected to say.
"I feel like a real skier you know," I said. I could literally feel the glow radiating from my cheeks. "I can't believe I just said that! But it's true. For once in my life I'm doing something everyone else gets to do, and I don't feel different. I feel what everyone else feels. I saw what everyone else sees. I don't know... I just... I feel like a real skier. I AM a real skier." I have Wylie to thank for this victory, and I'll keep that day in my heart forever.

The goal was to ski every Alpine lift on both Whistler, the "light side" according to Mr. Wylie the Gandalf Jedi, and Blackcomb, the "dark side". And we did just that! Wylie lost his Gandalf Jedi powers upon arrival on the dark side, and was dismayed when I informed him that I liked the dark slightly better than the light... In my best smart ass manner I reminded him of that the entire week.

By the end of the week, I had skied more than I think I ever have before, learned that Wylie doesn't take to teasing very well (which I used to my advantage of course), and saw myself and my abilities in a whole new light. I was having the time of my life, and didn't believe it could get any better, but little did I know what was waiting for me on our very last day. Be sure to come back for the last installment of my Whistler excursion, and my favourite adventure of all! Coming soon! :)

Click here for Whistler skiing video:









Monday, 17 October 2016

Ski Bum Hits the Road...

Hello there sunshine and welcome to today's fabulous posting!

I now come to the end of my ski adventure tales and the highlight of my 2016 season. But first, I shall begin with a bit of background on how this all came about. At the beginning of the season, I had the pleasure of skiing with an instructor from Whistler Adaptive Snow Program, who was visiting Fernie for a few days. Wylie participated in my magical first day back on skis and even had a run with me himself. He felt extremely satisfied at having made me go "woohoo"... While we were on the chairlift he talked about doing an exchange between Fernie and Whistler as a training opportunity. He mentioned including me as well so I could participate in their program. I had heard of the magnificence of Whistler Blackcomb before, but in my mind, it was the place where "real skiers" went and never considered it feasible for myself. But the thought of giving it a try excited me, and all the more so for our instructor team, as the training opportunity would be fantastic. Wylie said he'd see if he could make it work and promised to call later on.

My work with FIRE kept all notions of going to Whistler out of my mind for a while, but sure enough, a couple weeks later Wylie called me with a plan. Myself, my mum, and a group of three Fernie instructors were to participate in their program for four days in April! Whistler Adaptive fundraised to cover our accommodations and tickets, I was given a bursary to cover the costs for my lessons, and FIRE sponsored our travel, making the whole trip for the most part taken care of. Our society chose the instructors they wanted to send, hotels were booked, schemes were made, and excitement was high.

Because I was going to be at the coast, it was decided that mum, Scott, and I would leave early to visit my seating technician, Russ, in Vancouver. Having come up with a seating arrangement that worked for my needs, we decided to have Russ make me something that wasn't a big pile of foam held together by duct tape... Scott came with us to learn all he could from the seating system master... The technique Russ used for my system is called foam-in-place. Liquid foam is poured into a large garbage bag and then formed to fit the shape of my back. As the foam cools it hardens and becomes solid in the desired shape. Because the foam expands while hardening, I have to be tightly strapped against it to keep from being pushed out. Let's just say it made for the picture perfect moment... To finish it off Russ covered it with fabric, which just so happens to be my favourite colour... PURPLE!!! Russ knows me so well. It took two days to complete, but at the end, I had a beautiful new seating system for the sit ski.

Scott went straight to Whistler, while mum and I stayed a night to wander around in Vancouver. We visited Granville Island, spending way too much money and eating way too much food in true Granville Island fashion. I also tried sushi for the first time, expecting to hate it, but ending up loving it. We stayed at our favourite hotel, The Sunset Inn and Suites, took a late evening stroll down English Bay, and concluded the night by watching the sky turn pink on our balcony while drinking Earl Grey tea. The highlight of the mini Vancouver vacation was definitely spending five hours exploring Stanley Park. We walked through tree covered paths, were almost run over by a raccoon, and made friends with the flowers we met on the road. The park is filled with beautiful trees, some of which look astute and wise from their many years on earth.  As I walked past them, I imagined them with long, snowy white beards, nightcaps, and circular reading glasses. I sat beneath them and looked through their branches, thinking about how small I was in comparison. As we broke through the trees, we walked alongside the ocean, watching the seagulls tease each other in the skies, and the boats bobbing peacefully along the sea. We then hiked to the top of a hill to enjoy a very healthy lunch of granola bars and donuts and oranges, The oranges cancel everything else by the way... So does the hike beforehand... This day of taking in the beauty around us ended rather abruptly after discovering my wheelchair was out of battery power upon ascending a hill. I had to be rescued by a park ranger, a very handsome park ranger I might add, making me the damsel in distress I suppose. I'll be a damsel anytime if my rescuer looks like that! ;)

I said goodbye to my beloved Vancouver and we made our way to Whistler. And what glorious adventures took place in Whistler? You'll have to come back and find out...










Saturday, 1 October 2016

Insecurity, body positivity, and shame...

Hello there sunshine and welcome to another post!

I am going to be switching gears for this one... I just want to say before I get going that this will be one of the hardest things I'll ever write. I'm going to be opening up about the negativities that are part and parcel of having a disability. I'll be conveying feelings that might be hard for the reader to get through. But I think it's important for this to be brought into the light. And just as a disclaimer... I am NOT fishing for compliments or trying to make the reader pity me. Again, I am merely saying what has been hidden inside of me for many many years. Here it goes...

My intent in starting this blog was to give people an inside look into what living with a disability is like. I think society has many preconceived ideas about what having a disability means, but I can say with complete confidence that 100 percent of them are either romanticized, incorrect, or just plain ignorant. In fact, the ignorance astounds me sometimes for living in 2016. Anyways... I wanted to show people that we are capable of living normal lives, as well as doing whatever we set our minds to. But I also want to be completely honest about what bothers me, and even hurts me, from the way people treat me and view me. Most people don't even realize they're doing it, but that's why I need to be candid and open their eyes.

If you walk past the magazine racks in the grocery store, you are most likely going to see pictures of "flawless women" telling the world they are "body confident". And as you flip through the pages of one photoshopped woman after the other, the song "Beautiful" is played over the PA system, trying to portray the same message. Here we go for honestly... Nothing makes me angrier than seeing the words body confident in relation to these perfect women. It's the easiest thing in the world for these women to look at their absolutely normal bodies in the mirror and say they are body confident. But try looking in the mirror with a body like mine. I don't even know what body confident means. If I closed myself off to all human contact then maybe, just maybe, I could learn to have body confidence. But as soon as I step out my door, I have to fight something big, something ugly, something that threatens to consume me. Insecurity and shame. By insecurity, I don't mean, "Oh, I have a big nose... I'm insecure..." I fight the insecurity and shame of being constantly aware of my deformities and feeling like I belong on another planet because of them.

My whole life I've had to put up with people putting a negative light on my body. I have to endure the staring, the hurtful comments, the inappropriate questions. If you have a disability, you're basically born with thick skin, because it's the only way to survive. After years and years of being pointed out like the wart of humanity, it becomes hard to look in the mirror and not believe it. I even try to avoid going in public places because of the things I hear. I'll walk past someone and, "What's wrong with her?" "Why does she look like that?" "Why are her feet bent like that?" And it goes on and on. Then there are the questions, "Excuse me, if you don't mind me asking, what happened to you?" If I'm honest, yes, yes I do mind. Is that how you start a conversation with a stranger? Why on earth would you presume that I'm going to tell you something so personal about myself when you don't have the decency to have a normal conversation with me first. Start by actually making the effort to show that you respect me by taking the time to get to know me first. ME, not my disability, not my wheelchair, because YES there is a distinction. I am just so baffled by the nerve of people sometimes. It is NOT ok people, and quite honestly, I am NOT obligated to give a nice answer, which I always do. But if you really knew how I'm feeling on the inside... The shame... The hurt... If you really knew, I would hope you'd think twice before asking, simply to satisfy some petty curiosity of yours. Sorry if this is hard to read...

I have gone through many stages of love and hate in regards to my body. I think the hardest thing is when I look in the mirror, what I look like on the outside does not reflect who I feel like I am on the inside. I try to close my eyes and imagine the wheelchair away. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When I was younger I tried to hide the things that made me insecure. There's a song that describes it perfectly, "And I don't want the world to see me, cause I don't think that they'd understand." People used to always point out my clubbed feet, so I would wear socks every minute of the day, even while swimming. Going out exposed in a swimsuit was the hardest thing for me to do, and since it only attracted more negative attention, I haven't been to the pool in over 10 years. I was told in high school that I looked like a cow when I ate, so for the longest time, I wouldn't eat in front of people. When we had guests, I would eat in my room. When we went out, I wouldn't eat till we got home. I would wear tons of makeup to try and make myself feel pretty. For many years I was controlled by my insecurities. Not only that, but I dealt with a lot of emotional hurting. Finally, around a year ago, I decided I couldn't possibly cater to my shame anymore. I was tired of it all. I was tired of believing the lies. I stopped wearing makeup, I went barefoot through the house, I started eating in front of people. It took a long time for me to find the courage to do all that mind you. But here's what I finally realized. I shouldn't have to build up the courage to be me. God made me who I am, and that's all there is to it. I shouldn't have to hide who I am so I don't attract negative attention from people. And I am NOT the one who should be ashamed... It's a work in progress, but I'm taking it one step at a time.

Accepting who I am has been a challenge, but I'd say the hardest thing about having a disability is being judged by my outward appearance. Having meaningful relationships with people is one of the most difficult parts of my life. It all comes down to this... People only go skin deep. They don't take the time to open the book, to peel back the wrapping, and get to know what's on the inside. I feel it constantly. That invisible wall. I want you to understand me. But if you're going to understand, you HAVE to throw away those preconceived ideas. You have to dig down deep. When you do, you'll find out that I'm just like everyone else. I have likes and dislikes, I have opinions, I have dreams. If you want all that, you know what you have to do? Treat me like I'm human. My heart beats just like yours. So I look a little different. So I use a wheelchair to get around. So what! At the end of the day, I'm living, breathing, and just trying to survive in this ridiculous day and age just like you. And there are many more like me, waiting for someone to find the key. The next time you see someone with a disability, whether mental or physical, put yourself in their shoes and treat them the way you want to be treated. Remember, we need love, support, and friendship just as much as you.

This whole post stems from a conversation I had a couple days ago with someone I just met. This person ended up joining my mom and I for coffee, and after a few minutes of talking, they surprised me with this... They told me my hands were beautiful and delicate. Never in the history of my life have I heard someone refer to my body in such a positive way. It completely blew me away, and I was touched more than words can describe. When I told them I had never heard that before, they explained that they were an artist and enjoyed seeing things from a different perspective. I immediately looked down at my hands and wondered if they really were beautiful. I can't say I completely believe them, but what touched me the most about this scenario is that this person took the time. Took the time to see who I am from a different perspective. It is truly a shame this is the first time someone made a comment about my body that was positive. It was one of the most touching experiences I've had in a long time.

Will I ever know what it means to be body confident? I don't know... What I do know is that you can do something to help. The next time you see me, or someone like me, remember that it takes a lot for me to be out in the world with a smile on my face. Sometimes it takes a lot just to look you in the eyes. Remember that we are all different. We were made to be unique. I am unique because I have a disability, but more so because of who I am. And that's a very good thing. Show respect, take the time, find the key, and what you discover might just surprise you.


Friday, 30 September 2016

CT's, Neck Braces, and National Awards...

Hello there sunshine and welcome to today's post!

The ski adventure tales continue! This was probably the lowest point of my ski season. But oddly enough it also resulted in more self-discovery and a very unexpected honour. It's funny how that goes sometimes...

Literally the day after my adventure up White Pass, myself, my mother, Sir Scott, and a group of other instructors and students from FIRE set off to the Canadian Association of Disabled Skiing (CADS) Festival. CADS Festival is a week-long national event, where members of adaptive snow programs from all over Canada come together to ski. Students are paired with two instructors at random, and lower level instructors are paired with higher levels for training. It's a win-win for everyone! It's an amazing week of fun, fellowship, and learning all at once.

CADS Festival travels around to different locations each year, but every two years it takes place at a resort just an hour and a half away from us, hence why we all got to go. Because I wear two hats, president of FIRE and a student, the week was a mixture of work and play... But mostly play... Sir Scott and I just so happened to be paired together for the week and were pretty excited to give my new seating a thorough testing. We both couldn't have been happier with the results, as I skied for five straight days with little to no discomfort. Well... For the most part... I'll get to that... This was another huge victory because I have never been able to ski for more than two hours per week. The glory of this accomplishment lasted two whole days... and then disaster struck... my head... on the snow...

I won't go into any detail about the events leading up to it, except to say that at the time I was skiing with a different instructor, and things didn't go as planned. Before I continue I want to say that this instructor is amazing at what he does. Accidents happen, especially in a sport like skiing! So without saying too much about the why, unfortunately I had a nasty fall, with the sit ski flipping upside down... I don't remember much of what happened before, or when the fall actually happened. One minute I was skiing, the next minute I was being picked up after being on my head. Scott was immediately at my side asking me if I was ok. The first thing I said was that I hit my head hard and I had a blazing headache. Admittedly I said this while trying to harness every bit of self-control I possessed not to burst into tears. The fact that the snow was icy and hard, and the impact of the fall on my head, was enough to scare me more than I care to admit. Scott being a former member of ski patrol came in handy, and he quickly checked me for a concussion. Nothing appeared to be wrong at that point except a headache though. After doing more tests, all of which I struggled to get through without crying, Scott took over and we gently headed down to the base.

A million thoughts flooded my mind in the time it took to get down. The pain in my head, neck, and left shoulder were increasing, which of course wasn't very encouraging. I thought the whole way down about the fact that this fall was very similar to the one that prevented me from skiing for two years. Would I have to go to the hospital? Did I break something? What about my neck? Had I undone all of the recovery progress I had made? Would I have to give up skiing for another two years? That consequence would be devastating, especially since I had only just started skiing again. The pain and these thoughts were becoming so overwhelming I just couldn't take it. Now this is the part that I'm still beating myself up over. Once we reached the bottom, and Scott knelt in front of me to see how I was, I just broke down and cried... I have to mention that Scott handled this situation amazingly well and I couldn't be more impressed.

This is where the self-discovery part came in. Even though I shed a few tears, and was pretty worried and scared, I managed to ignore it and remain my smiley self. My lifelong, somewhat debilitating fear of pain was starting to lose its grip on me! I was starting to feel like I had a breakthrough! Scott got me some ice, did his best to keep me distracted, checked for concussion symptoms again, and then said the dreaded words... "I'm taking you to the hospital."

Hospitals and I don't get along... at all... Ever since the horrors of bone surgery when I was four I've been terrified of them. The moment I heard those words, fear tightened its grip on me. For a moment anyway, but after that moment passed I went right back to joking and smiling. The half an hour drive there wasn't exactly pleasant pain wise, but I couldn't believe how well I was taking it. Just to give you an idea, usually pain and hospitals cause major emotional upheaval for me... But I made the whole trip with not the least bit of my emotions playing up, and even was able to enter the hospital with a smile. A HUGE breakthrough for me.

I had to wear a neck brace the whole time, went in for about 10 x-rays on my shoulder and a CT on my neck, but managed to pull through just fine. Mainly because my x-ray technician was extremely sexy... did I write that out loud!? No broken bones, just a small concussion and muscular swelling in my neck. Later on, I found out that I actually tore my rotator cuff in my left shoulder and sustained another whiplash injury, but in the grand scheme of things, it could have been much worse.

I shocked myself and a few others, including my mother, by requesting the next afternoon to get back in the sit ski and go for a run. But here's my logic on this, which really just stems from knowing myself all too well... If I didn't jump right back in and face my fears, I knew it would get harder and harder, to the point where I wouldn't want to ski again. So to prevent that from happening, I simply forced myself to "get back in the saddle" again. And I couldn't be more thankful that I did.

The evening after my accident was banquet night, which resulted in a very unexpected surprise, but most of all a great honour. During the evening, the CADS national board presented awards to outstanding members of clubs across Canada. A very special award was given to an instructor who will forever remain a legend in my eyes. Vince was the craziest, most adventurous, and unique man I have ever known. He was the most deserving of the award Volunteer of the Year. I hope you're flying high in heaven Vince! When I am able to get my own sit ski one day, I shall name it Vince. My emotions were running high after Vince's award, and honestly, I was hardly paying attention to the next award being presented. All of a sudden I heard my name being called! But for what? What did they say? Administrator of the Year!? If I didn't have my seatbelt on I'm sure I would've fallen over. I was in complete and utter shock. Had I really just won a national award? I was so overwhelmed, tears filled my eyes as I went up to receive the award. It took me a good long while before I was able to process what had just happened. I felt undeserving of such a great honour, but at the same time, I couldn't be more grateful and touched.

The week of CADS festival was full of ups and downs, but I've concluded that even the downs taught me something positive. I learned that I can have courage in the face of pain. Often I beat myself up because I feel like I'm not strong. The times when I'm not strong always distract me from seeing when I am. So in the end, I'm thankful that the fall helped me to realize who I am on the inside. I would never have felt it had it not been for that fall. As the saying goes, it doesn't matter how hard you fall, just as long as you get up and try again. And never, never stop trying. Never give up!





Monday, 19 September 2016

Beauty Thy Name Is White Pass...

Hello there sunshine and welcome to another post!

Today I am continuing the tales of my ski adventures by describing my favourite day of all. But first a little of the background story...

For three glorious weeks I had been completely enthralled with my return to the skiing world. Well... In spirit at least... My body was singing a different tune entirely. Something like this: ouch, ouch, ouch. At that point sit skiing was kind of a love-hate relationship. I loved the sit ski, but the sit ski didn't love me. I had been using a particular kind of sit ski, specifically the one I had used from the very beginning. It had never accommodated my needs well, and after those three weeks, it became apparent that my continuing to use it was not going to be an option. I was willing to fight through the pain to continue my beloved skiing, but my therapists, who are often much more logical than I am, foresaw more injuries, some of which could be permanent. I was again faced with the decision of having to give up skiing...

This is where Scott came in, who was to become my instructor later on. Scott had just agreed to take on equipment management for the program and had a meeting with me to discuss some improvement ideas. During said meeting, we got to talking about the problems I was having with the sit ski. I'm still not sure why he wanted to do this, and had he known what this involved I think he might have changed his mind, but for whatever reason, he took it upon himself to help make me comfortable in the sit ski. Poor man...

His first change of a great many was in the type of sit ski I use. I was switched to a sit ski called the HOC2 Glide. As the name suggests, this sit ski really does glide, and immediately offered positive improvements for my skiing. As I said before, Scott became my regular instructor, and after our first lesson assumed the name Sir Scott. Don't ask me how that name came to be... I couldn't tell you... But it stuck. I won't go into too much detail about the many changes and improvements Sir Scott made to my seating, but all I can say is that he worked incredibly hard and devoted many many hours to seeing that I was comfortable, and without him, I wouldn't be telling you these stories.

By March 18th it seemed that my seating was finally starting to work! Scott and I went on a "field trip" as I like to call it by heading up to the hill to put the seating to the test. We went for a few practise runs, immediately overjoyed by the success of the seating. Ever since I started skiing I had never been able to balance the sit ski on my own. Because of my spine, I constantly lean to the left, which of course causes the ski to fall over. But thanks to Scott's adjustments, I was sitting in the centre of the ski, and could, therefore, balance on my own!!! If I had been given just that small victory that day it would've been enough. But it got even better...

"Let's go up White Pass." Said Sir Scott.
White Pass? But that's almost to the top of the mountain! I've only skied lower mountain and easy runs. White Pass is for real skiers! I don't belong UP THERE! Remember when I talked about fear being the driving force to discovery? This was one of those moments which proved that theory for me. As we loaded the White Pass chair a million not so encouraging thoughts were going through my mind. Mainly... WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING??? But nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for the feelings that flooded my heart and soul as we reached the top. I now know why the Bible talks about God's presence being at the top of the mountains. Truly this is where heaven feels closer, and my peace is found. And when I dream of heaven, I think it ought to look something like the top of White Pass. Impossible? Impossible for me to be up there said my mind? Impossible no longer! I was hit with the ultimate feeling of freedom all at once. Tears of pure joy filled my eyes... Literally... I fogged my goggles... But it didn't matter. White Pass is forever burned into my mind as being the place where impossible is two letters too long. I'm not sure if I could ever explain just how much the White Pass experience touched me, except to say that it completely opened my eyes to what is possible and gave me a new attitude towards myself as a skier. For the first time ever I felt like a real skier, which is more important than I'll ever be able to convey.

As Scott and I descended the mountain, literally the last ones to leave at the end of the day, we both couldn't help yelling "THAT WAS AMAZING!!!", etc, etc, followed by "wow" over and over again. We had conquered so many barriers that day, both physically and emotionally. I balanced in the sit ski for the first time, we went up White Pass, and conquered our very first black run! The day was a victory through and through, and two things will forever be in my mind as a result. First, how thankful I am to Sir Scott, not only for all his efforts in making me comfortable enough to continue skiing, but also for making me see that I can reach for new heights. Second, for being able to see the beauty that is White Pass, which will forever hold a special place in my heart and in my dreams. I am now convinced that my heart belongs at the top of the mountains...





Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Return of Mighty Mouse!

Hello there sunshine and welcome to today's post!

Now originally I started out with a train of thought, which was interrupted in the last few posts, but now I shall resume. What was I talking about again? Oh yes, I remember... Ski adventuring!!! 

I had mentioned in a previous post all about my work with FIRE Adaptive, but this season I went on a skiing journey of my own, and one that was quite unexpected. Two years ago I sustained a whiplash injury, due to some skiing shenanigans... Unfortunately, the injury was undetected for many months before I decided to get help, and by that time it had worsened to the point where I was in therapy twice a week for almost two years. What started as a whiplash injury ended up spreading to my shoulder, causing a nerve to be pinched, which was later diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome and carpal tunnel. During this time my therapists asked me not to go skiing in order to allow full recovery. 

Before the season began this year, my therapists deemed me fully recovered, which meant I could start skiing again. I don't care to admit to this, but at that point I had completely forgotten the joy that skiing brought me, and....uh... had no desire to return. In fact, I resolutely made the decision that I would not return to skiing this season. In my mind, the recovery period from an injury was too long, and the risk of hurting myself again was too great, so therefore it wasn't worth it. But it would seem that my resolution was not meant to be... 

The first day of FIRE Adaptive had arrived, and I was faced with a problem that I've never had before. We had too many instructors and not enough students! Well, that wouldn't do... After all, most of these instructors were just newly trained and EXTREMELY enthusiastic to start teaching. There was room for one more student... I called around to our absent students making sure that their plans hadn't changed. No luck! What could I do? The solution became apparent. I would simply fill the space for that one lesson. But I'd only go once and that would be it! Again, that wasn't meant to be. 

As soon as I heard the click of the last strap being buckled, was whisked away by the chairlift and found myself at the top of those familiar slopes again, I knew my previous resolution was on shaky ground. Almost like floodgates being opened, the feeling of joy, freedom, and everything indescribable filled my very soul. Attempting to convey the feelings that overwhelm my heart while skiing may be an impossible task, but all I can say is that I feel so light, it wouldn't surprise me if I took off right there and started to fly! No longer am I "Grace in the wheelchair", who has to sit on the sidelines watching everyone else enjoy sports activities. To be completely honest, I can even forget that I have a disability when I'm zipping down the mountainside. I am fully aware that without the assistance of my instructor I wouldn't be skiing at all... But at the same time, my instructor and I become one somehow (well... not exactly somehow... we work on synchronization of course), and we just ski. It's as simple as that. Skiing brings more joy to me than any other earthly thing because of freedom! To not feel heavy and restricted and held back, but rather free not only to conquer mountains but to just be me. Being able to just be Grace, without having my wheelchair accompany me with all its labels and preconceived notions, is all the freedom I could ask for.

In spite of all those wonderful feelings, skiing can sometimes terrify me so much I'm sure it would make people wonder why I continue doing it... Am I afraid when I go skiing? Sometimes. But here's the thing. Normally if I'm afraid of something, my first reaction is to run from it. What I've learned from skiing is that fear can be the driving force to discovering what's on the inside. Fear has the opposite effect on me while skiing. Instead of running away, I tackle it head on because I know that I'm going to learn something about myself that I didn't know was there, courage being one of them. Seeing fear in that light has helped me to conquer many many challenges, both on the hill and off, and I couldn't be more grateful.

In joy, in freedom, in fear, in victory I descended the mountain on that first day. As you can probably guess, I did NOT stand firm in my resolution not to ski that winter... I went on to have some incredible adventures. Want to hear about them? Come back soon for more!



Sunday, 5 June 2016

44 Adventures in 20 Years of Life!


Hello there sunshine, which is very appropriate for the beautiful weather we've had of late, and welcome to today's post! I know I haven't posted in a while... Unfortunately life has been a little tougher for me these past few weeks. BUT! I'd like to take the time to document an important time in my life!

I turned the big 20 last week! That's right, I have officially left my teen years behind me... I DID IT!!! I SURVIVED!!! Although here's the thought I had... I will never be 19 again... That's kind of scary when I really dwell on it... Anyways! 

I have to take a moment to say how much I appreciated the lovely comments and well wishes I had from my Facebook friends throughout the day! It really made me feel special! And I mean the real special... Not thpecial.... Thank you so much everyone! 

My birthday was a series of ups and downs, starting with a down. I wasn't home for my birthday, I was in the city casting and having a back brace made. So I spent the morning being stretched and then stuck in a shell of plaster... I've been going through a bit of a time with my back of late. I won't go into too much detail, other than to say that it's kind of like fighting against time itself, or racing against nature. Ever since I refused my spinal surgery at age 14, I've known that it was only a matter of time before I started to deteriorate. I don't ever regret my decision, because the thought of losing 90% of my already little mobility was never an option, but sometimes it can be difficult. Difficult to ignore the thoughts that try to sneak up and take control of my mind. I think the hardest thing was finding out during my casting that they have new treatments for Scoliosis. New treatments that are successful, but unavailable to me because my adolescent years have passed. I haven't had a breakdown over my spine for a long long while, but because of having pain everyday whether awake or asleep, I did have an "episode" for a day. I'm only sharing this so that other people struggling with something similar know that they aren't alone. And I've always tried to be honest in my posts. I did at one point feel like I was losing hope, which is a terrible thing to go through. Because my case is pretty unique, it's easy to think that I'm all alone. So how do I get through it? Simply by these two verses that I cling to as if my life depended on it, because it kind of does. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make the crooked ways straight." AND "But this I call to mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercy I am not consumed. Because His compassions fail not, they are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness." I wake up every morning, and even with the pain trying to hold onto me, I choose not to let go of my joy. Attitude is a choice, and I do everything I can to make the right decision, but only by the grace and mercy bestowed on me by the Lord. Casting a back brace on my birthday could've darkened my spirits, but I chose not to let that happen. I was my normal self, had my orthotist laughing the entire appointment, and left there as if the sun was shining through my pores. 

The rest of my day was full of shenanigans in the mall doing most of my favourite things. I got an Earl Grey tea, which I can't live without, got some much needed summer clothes, aaand... WENT TO CHAPTERS!!! Yes, I was THAT excited about it, and admit to being a complete nerd... In fact, a conversation with my mother that afternoon went something like this; 
Mom: So what do you want to do this afternoon?
Me: Probably spend a couple hours in Chapters! 
Mom: A couple hours!?
Me: Hey! You are SO lucky you have an abnormal daughter, who would rather spend hours in a bookstore than in a bar! 
Mom:... Touché... 
You get the idea... We finished the evening having dinner and delicious Gelato dessert with family members in the city. Unfortunately I had a little bit of food poisoning, and therefore hardly touched my dinner, but as the French have it... C'est la vie! All in all it was a wonderful day, and 20 will be a wonderful year! 

My sister challenged me on my birthday to make a list of all the adventures I've had in my lifetime, and you know what happens when I'm challenged! Bring it on! The following shows my journey of adventures, the big and the small, the good and the bad, in my 20 years thus far. Loved going back through memory lane, and I praise God for all the rich blessings He has given me. Life is amazing!

44 Adventures in 20 Years:

1. Flew in a helicopter (One day old) 
2. Tried serial casting on feet (unsuccessful) 
3. Was cut on both feet when removing cast (5 inch scars) 
4. Went to New York (Age four) 
5. Had picture taken in front of the Twin Towers (2000) 
6. Had major intensive bone surgery on left leg (Age four) 
7. Received first wheelchair (and was terrified to use it at first... ) 
8. Was in a car crash on the way to get casts removed
9. Started kindergarten at Max Turyk 
10. Was featured on the Variety Club’s Show of Hearts (Age four) 
11. Was featured on the Fifth Estate (Age seven) 
12. Had surgery to remove metal plate and screws from left leg (Age eight)
13. Started voice lessons 
14. Started piano lessons (Age nine) 
15. Was featured on the Fifth Estate again… (Age nine) 
16. Joined SET-BC (Special Education Technology) 
17. Met Kate Gibbs (Age ten)
18. Illustrated children’s book called “A Hare Raising Adventure” 
19. Went to Texas for first Arthrogryposis convention (Age 11) 
20. Reported on wheelchair basketball for the Winter Games in Kimberley (Age 12) 
21. Started homeschooling with Heritage Christian Online School (Age 13) 
22. Spokesperson for CanAssist at the Senate’s National Day of the Child in Ottawa (Age 14) 
23. Interviewed Paralympic archer Kevin Evans
24. Was featured on the cover of Legacy Now magazine 
25. Interviewed Josh Dueck (Age 14)
26. Interviewed Greg Westlake and Jean Labonté from the Canadian Sledge Hockey team
27. Torchbearer in Vancouver for the Paralympics (Age 14) 
28. Reported on sledge hockey at the Paralympics 
29. Interviewed goalie for Canadian Sledge Hockey Team, Paul Rosen 
30. Freelance journalist for the Fernie Free Press
31. Started “Disabled and Living in the Real World” blog and video blog (Age 15) 
32. Sit skied for the first time at Kimberley Alpine Resort (Age 15) 
33. Started working on “sit ski society” (Age 15) 
34. Became the president of FIRE: Fernie Inspire the Race to Empower (Age 16) 
35. FIRE Adaptive Snow Program officially opened (2013) 
36. Stopped sit skiing due to whiplash (Age 17) 
37. Graduated with honours from Heritage Christian Online School (Age 18) 
38. Received the City of Fernie’s Youth Achievement Award 
39. Received BC Adaptive Snowsports “Club Board Member of the Year”
40. Started sit skiing again (Age 19) 
41. Created Daughter of Light Photography 
42. Photography featured on the front page of CBT’s Scratch Magazine 
43. Received the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing “Administrator of the Year” award 
44. Skied Whistler Blackcomb and conquered The Saddle baby!!! 
More adventures coming soon… (Age 20)








Thursday, 12 May 2016

Reflection

Sometimes I think about what it would be like to have a perfect life. If everything went as planned. If it was all just sunshine and roses with no trouble in it at all. I have to ask myself one question then. Would I want that kind of life? My first instinct would be to say yes. But when I stop to really think about it, the truth becomes clear. If everything was perfect, there would be nothing to make me grow. Nothing to push me, pull me, and shape me into who I am supposed to be. If life didn't slap me on the face every once in a while, I might not take the time to stop and look around. Sometimes when I'm knocked flat on my back, as painful as that might be, it reminds me to slow down and look at the stars. The fact is, I've learned more from the difficult moments in life than I ever would have from the positive. Rain is never bad, because it causes things to grow. Which brings me to something important.

I have been asked a few times that if I could change my life, restart and have something completely different, would I take that opportunity? I've thought long and hard, and I liken it to this. Could I possibly look at the world, with all its splendour and majesty, and then confidently and without hesitation tell God that it's not good enough? Could I possibly ask Him to change what He has created? How then could I look at myself, a being designed and brought about by God, and tell Him that it's not good enough? How could I stoop so low as to even think such a thing? It's unimaginable! In answer to the question, would I change myself if I could, I would say unequivocally and without a doubt, no!

My life may not be the easiest that is for sure. Every second of my day I face challenges, sometimes in just finding enough energy to move my arms. Do I sometimes dream about what it'd be like if I had even just a little more mobility in my arms and legs? I wouldn't be human if I didn't. You know what I'd really like to do, and this might seem incredibly stupid to you, but nevertheless... I'd like to lift my hand in the air, without it feeling heavy and restricted, and just feel the wind carelessly caress my fingers. That's what freedom would be for me. But I choose not to dwell on that, because every attitude comes with a choice. I am Grace. I have restrictions, but thankfully they don't stop me from appreciating how sweet life can be. I am thankful for every breath that I take. I am thankful for every sight that I see. Everyday I go for a walk and become absolutely enraptured by the beauty in this world. But it's the little things that I really appreciate. The sound of the wind rustling through the trees. The sweet freshness of the air that fills my lungs. The fact that I am surrounded by majestic mountains, which are medicine to my soul in one season, and an adventurous playground in the next. I can laugh, I can smile, and I can take part in many things that bring joy to my heart. By the grace of God all this I can experience, and I am ever so grateful.

If I could change anything about myself, it would be to my character. I wish I could love when I need to love. Speak when I need to speak. Be silent when I need to be silent. Hope when I need to hope. Be strong when I need to be strong. Give thanks when I need to give thanks. So many times I miss the mark. So many times I lose track of what really matters. So many times I fall into the same traps. I am an imperfect being and that won't change. But everyday offers the chance to learn, the chance to grow, and the chance to make a difference in my own small way. I pray that I never fail to recognize those chances when they present themselves.

To be honest, I don't even know why I'm writing this... Sometimes these things just come to me, usually while I'm walking. I will say this. The next time you feel like complaining, might I gently remind you that it takes more effort to have a negative attitude than a positive one. If you really stop and consider what you do have, I promise you it would greatly outweigh what you don't. And I'm not talking about having money, fancy cars, and a mansion in the sky. I'm talking about every breath you take. I'm talking about eyes that see. I'm talking about ears that hear. I'm talking about every move you make. I'm talking about everything that is taken for granted. If you really wanted to, you would end up saying "how blessed I am to be alive". Nothing is more precious than this life, but you have to choose to see it. Make that choice friends. It's the best one you'll ever make. 

Monday, 9 May 2016

This Girl is on FIRE!

Hello there sunshine! Welcome to today’s post! 

I’d like to talk about the greatest adventure I’ve ever been privileged enough to have. Working on FIRE has been a journey for me, both physically and mentally. Looking back on it now, it all kind of seems unreal. To be honest, I can’t even believe that I’m the same person I was when this crazy idea to start a sit ski program popped into my head. I’ve discovered a lot about myself throughout this process, grew more than I thought possible, and now I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without FIRE. 

I think the process of discovery began the first time I went skiing. I still don’t really know what made me want to go skiing actually… None of my family are skiers, and at the time I had a strong dislike for anything that had to do with winter. I think it had something to do with the news I received on my spine. I felt the need to do something different. Something that could make me forget my hardships for a while. Something to even make me forget I was disabled. I didn’t think skiing could do all that though… I was happy to be wrong in this case! I came away from my first ski adventure with an indescribable joy. Up there, on top of a mountain, the world seems tiny in comparison. I felt like I could do anything. I felt so free, almost as if I could fly. And I surprised myself through the experience. Things that would usually scare me senseless I ended up being thrilled with. I think this was the first step to discovering something within myself that I didn't know was there. I remember coming home from Kimberley, sitting down at my table, and playing everything over and over again in my mind. And that's when it happened. That little idea popped in my head, which in retrospect was the craziest idea I've ever had to date. This little voice inside me said "I'm going to start a sit ski program in Fernie". It sounded so sure, so certain, so unmovable... Like a mountain... It truly was a mountain, and from where I was sitting at the bottom, it seemed monumental, and slightly impossible. The thing is, when something appears to be impossible, my mind ends up saying "challenge accepted"... Sometimes without my consent... With that, I took out a pencil and paper, said a quick prayer, and got to work. 

I found it amusing going through my old blog posts and reading about my journey of creating FIRE. My 15 and 16 year old self was very ambitious, very positive, and at times a wee bit dramatic. I don't think it even crossed my mind that there weren't many teens my age striving to tackle the same challenges as I was. In my mind, this program that I dreamed of was always going to happen, come hell or high water. Nothing is impossible for a driven youth with vision. My previous posts show me working through whatever challenge presented itself, whether it was choosing a name for the program (can you believe I was actually considering FARDS: Fernie Alpine Resort Disabled Skiers!? What was wrong with me!?), filling out all the paperwork to become a society (which I hated with a passion apparently...), or raising funds for our very first sit skis. I'll never forget the very first meeting we had as an official society. Having never been the president of anything before, I was completely a blank slate, and ended up calling the meeting to order by triumphantly declaring, "I command this meeting to be opened... Yay!". At the time I couldn't figure out why the other members were laughing so hard, but now I find it just as hilarious as they did. I remember saying in one of my posts that I felt intimidated by all the adults on my board, but I had unending enthusiasm to bring to the table, and that counts for something! Those moments began to gradually shape me, and the knowledge I have gained from them will stay with me forever. 

My favourite post by far is when I describe the very first day of FIRE, on January 20th 2013. I felt proud, excited, relieved, optimistic, and a little stunned all at once. I said that we were finally free to ski, and that the program would be the key to many more possibilities. You can tell that I truly loved the program, and I hope that still shows today. The first day of the program was a victory. It was the climax of everything we had been working towards. It was the spark, which ignited the flame. 

What the program is today truly amazes me. In the four years we've been in operation, the program has doubled in size, and continues to show signs of growth everyday. We started with two sit skis, we now have four. We had five students, today we have twelve. Nine instructors multiplied to twenty two! Statistically the growth we've been through has been unbelievable! I attribute the success of the program mostly to prayer. Whenever I was stressed about something, my Mother would always say, "Grace, have you prayed about that?" or "Grace, you need to let go and let God take care of that.". It was a hard lesson for me to learn, but God's hand on the program and its development has been very obvious to me as the years go by. Funnily enough, this season I prayed (half jokingly) that God would make it snow every weekend so we'd have better conditions at the end of our year. I'm being completely serious when I say that it snowed almost every weekend like clockwork... Thank God! 

I'm not sure if I'll be able to put into words just how much FIRE has meant to me throughout the years. I've been through hardships, frustration, stress, and times when I wondered why on earth I decided to take this on. I still feel that way sometimes actually... But then I go up to the hill every Sunday, sometimes to ski and sometimes just to make sure everyone gets off safely, and all it takes is for me to see the smiles on everyone's faces... Instantly, the whole ordeal of getting FIRE started becomes worth it. The positive atmosphere during lesson times is so real, it's almost tangible. The most rewarding part of my job is watching the lives of our team being changed. I couldn't be more thankful for what FIRE has done in my life as well. The list of skills that I gained through this experience are unending, but most importantly is what FIRE has done for my character. I've gain confidence and strength, two things that I never thought I'd have. I've learned what's important in life and how to fight for it. I could go on and on explaining what FIRE has done for me, but I'd say this post is long enough as it is... 

Truly, the best thing about FIRE, in my opinion at least, is this... It wasn't one single person who made FIRE possible. It was a lot of people with the same flame on the inside, who got together, and made a difference. There was a need, and everyone pulled together to fill it. It's truly amazing what can happen when we work together. I want to thank each and every person who helped to make FIRE what it is today. The flame has been kindled, and will continue to burn for many more years to come. 

Stay tuned for more posts on my ski adventures, coming soon... :) 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

An Ode to My Mother

Hello there Sunshine! Welcome to today's post, and Happy Mother's Day!

I am going to take a break from my reminiscences of the past year to talk about someone very special. Without this certain someone I would not be the person I am today. This is an "ode", or really just a thank you, to my Mother.

You see, when you're the mother of a child with a disability, life is very different compared to most. I don't think most people realize just how different it is. For starters, to expect that at any moment the doctors will let you hold your new baby girl, only to discover that she needs to be flown off to another hospital for immediate medical attention. To make the long trip by ambulance, wondering what was wrong with your little girl. To arrive at the hospital, only to see that your baby is hooked up to all these tubes and wires, with a medical team buzzing around her. To be told that she wouldn't survive past three weeks. To be asked if you wanted to just walk away while you still had the chance. To discover that your daughter had a condition that would challenge her the rest of her days. To wonder what her life would be like, and wonder what yours would be like too. This was only the beginning for my Mother.

She had to think of ways to explain why I couldn't do certain things, why I looked the way I did, why other kids were different from me. She had to wipe my tears when I was made fun of, or when I felt left out because I couldn't do something, or when I wondered why I was created this way. She was there to help me through the times when I was afraid. Afraid of the doctors, afraid of the tests, afraid of the scans, afraid of the word surgery. She had to make the painful decision of accepting a surgery that would allow me to sit in a wheelchair. Enduring those terrible times after surgery, when I screamed for three days straight. Those sleepless nights back at home because of the casts. The feeling of relief when they were removed, only to be reminded of the experience again because of the scars left on my body. And just when she thought it was over, the doctors suggested more surgeries, which left her asking "is it worth putting her through that?".

She was the one to encourage me not to be a victim. She taught me never to feel sorry for myself, to always look on the positive side, and to try new things. She was there for my victories, both large and small, like playing the piano, or teaching myself to write with a pencil. She accompanied me on many adventures, such as the Paralympics, and my trip to Ottawa to speak to the Senate. She was the first to tell me I could do something, even when I didn't think so at the time. When I'd do something that I thought was daring (but admittedly stupid), like launching my wheelchair off jumps at the skateboard park, or pulling my cousin behind me on rollerblades, she would be there shaking her head or giving me what I like to call the "death glare".

She continually fought for my rights to equality, especially through my high school years. The stress she went through to make sure I was treated the way I should was unimaginable. She spent hours on the phone, writing letters, and having meetings. She had to deal with the frustration and heart-ache of seeing me come home everyday in tears. She had to make the decision to pull me out of high school. In the many hours that I spent alone because of my online school studies, she would always make sure she spent time with me, whether in walking, reading, or just talking. When I wondered why I couldn't make friends, she'd be there to soothe me, or tell me that Jesus was my friend.

In my teen years, she dealt with both the normal and the not so normal. When I went through the stages of being insecure because of acne, she was the one to research and try every product that offered a solution. When I would just randomly burst into tears because I was PMSing, she would be there to listen to my ridiculous reasons why, and hug me while suppressing her laughter. "He said I love you Gracie in that movie Mom! WHEN WILL SOMEONE SAY THAT TO ME!!!???"
She endures my morning grumps... The least said about that the better... When my life took a surprising and painful turn in discovering the true condition of my spine, hearing what the surgery would help with and what it would take away, and enduring the knowledge of what would happen if I refused, she was there. She supported my decision to refuse the surgery, and the hardships I've been through because of it.

When I said I wanted to start my own sit ski society... Well, if she thought it was a bad idea, she never let on... She celebrated with me when plans fell in place, and dealt with my outbursts of tears when something didn't work out. When I would ask her why I was trying to do this, or when I declared I was in WAY over my head, she would always remind me to trust in God. Today she watches myself and the other students in Fernie Adaptive ski our beautiful mountains, and she says because of that she is very proud. I have dragged her with me for many of my crazy ideas, and she has supported my every whim.

To conclude... For your strength. For your perseverance. For your hope. For your faith. For your encouragement. For your scolding. For your sacrifice. For your endurance. For your friendship. For your guidance. Your teaching, your smiles, and even your death glare. For your love, and for your prayers that helped me through my hardships. For everything that I am and everything I will be. And for the many other fors... Thank you Mom!


Sunday, 24 April 2016

Grace the Brace Face...

Hello there sunshine!

You didn't think I meant it did you? Well I did, you of little faith! And there shall be more posts to come...

Probably the most drastic change I've gone through over the last year is getting braces... Does that sound weird? Oh well... 

Yes, I finally bit the bullet (that's supposed to be a metaphor, but it does look like I've bitten a bullet... A metal bullet... That stuck to my teeth...), and decided to get braces last summer. I've waited so long for two reasons. One, braces are freaking expensive people! I knew they would be, but wow... I had better have one dazzling smile by the end of this... And two, I needed to be ready for it... That sounds ridiculous, but unfortunately because of certain experiences I've had before, I am extremely sensitive and slightly terrified of pain. I quite honestly can't separate little pain from huge pain in my head, and so it takes me quite a while to prepare myself when I know something might hurt. I've gotten a lot better at handling it throughout the years, but it's definitely not gone yet. Anyways... A big factor that made me get my braces last summer was the fact that I lose my dad's dental plan when I turn 21. So basically it was now or never... 

I'd say the most tedious part of the whole process was finding a dentist, and comparing prices. I went through four different dental assessments before I decided on my dentist, including a visit to an Orthodontist. Yeah... His price was double what you'd normally pay... It costs $3000 more for the word orthodontist... I chose a dentist whose office is 20 minutes out of town, but he happened to be the least expensive, and he actually told me the truth about my teeth... He's a perfectionist and hardly says two words to me, but he has done a very thorough job, and I'm very pleased. 

So here was my first challenge, which I fully admit to being a mental one... I had to have two teeth extracted before I could begin the braces process. I have never had a cavity, and therefore never had a needle, and so the whole tooth pulling thing was extremely dramatized in my mind... I pictured the dentist walking in, pulling his gloves on while he gave a maniacal laugh, and then coming at me with a pointy thing he intents to stab my mouth with. Blood, guts, and gore, that's what I was thinking. I had nightmares the whole night before. I don't want to give you the wrong impression though... I am a mature adult, with full control over my emotions... Which is why I cried as soon as my dentist walked in the room.... I even made the assistant cry with me... I'm not giving myself enough credit though, because while I did cry, I handled it much much better than I would have in years past. And I can now say this with confidence... Needles in the mouth are no big deal! Really! And I had five of them! The ones in the pallet are a little uncomfortable, but the whole experience definitely wasn't as bad as I would've thought. It's the healing process that was terrible... After not eating for two days, and therefore having nothing in my stomach but painkillers, I became violently sick for ten hours straight on the third day... Joy... 

That being done, about three weeks later, I went in to get my braces put on. I did really well... Until she put the wire on... And then I cried... I'm not joking when I say it was so painful that the whole drive home I was yelling at my mother to "TURN THIS DARN VEHICLE AROUND AND GO BACK! I'M NOT KIDDING, I WANT THEM OFF!!!" Drama queen still holds her title... Besides the pain, they feel huge at first! I kind of felt like a horse... Or a cow... Heck, both at once... The worst part was that I had to do an annual general meeting for FIRE an hour afterwards, which was ridiculous and embarrassing... I was spitting uncontrollably while I talked, and I sounded something like this, "Tho, would the thecretary pleathe read the minuteth to the memberth? And would the treathurer pleathe give uth a financial thatement?" And, for the second time that month, because of not being able to eat and being under the influence... Of painkillers... I spent day two being violently sick for another 12 hours... Afterwards, I became extremely dehydrated, to the point where it looked like someone had taken dark brown eyeshadow and painted it around my eyes. I just narrowly escaped a kidney infection as well, and finally clued into the fact that I can't use Advil anymore. Yeah, so that was fun. Because I can't go through braces like a normal human... 

I'd have to say that the first four or five appointments were the worst, but after that it became easier and easier. I eventually stopped crying at my appointments, which is one more step to adulthood... One small leap for man, one less tear for Grace... Now I will admit that for the first few months I avoided the camera like the plague. Everyone said braces made me look cute, and I'm sorry guys... You lied... But when my teeth finally started to straighten out to the point of being presentable, I was surprised at how much I wanted to smile. It has been years since I've been comfortable enough to smile with my teeth, and it feels amazing. 

But I think through this experience I learned something about myself... I am strong, much stronger than I give myself credit for. I can go through pain, and I can conquer my fears. I have a problem with being too hard on myself, so it has taken a while for me to admit to this... I think I may have taken a step, or many steps, to conquering one of my greatest fears. I just never thought it would happen by getting braces... Life is strange that way... God was, and still is, the reason I can say all that... 

My dentist didn't let me know how long I'd be a metal mouth, and up until this point I've been ok with that... I don't want to know how long the torture will last... But on my last appointment I worked up the courage to ask. He said, "You'll be a metal mouth for the rest of your life! Good luck finding a husband! Your dad will never get that truck and trailer as a dowry from your marriage! Better get used to the idea of being a spinster! BWUAHAHA!!!" No, he didn't say that... He said four more months, which means I'll have them off by the end of the summer! Best. News. Ever. 

In conclusion, I am happy that I did this. Worth every tear... Dramatic or no... But if you want to know what having braces is really like, do yourself a favour and go ask a normal human being... :)