Thursday, 12 May 2016


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!