Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Year In Review

I always do a "Year-In-Review" for myself to reflect back on what I accomplished, learned, struggled with, endured, or appreciated.  I went into this review thinking that the year wasn't… well… all that great.  The beginning of 2013 promised to show a whole new life.  I was convinced that it was going to be my year, and that finally, all my dreams had come true and God had heard and answered my prayers.  And He had… but in a different way after doing this review.

While I could list out all that happened this year (which I did), I decided that much of it was for me and my eyes only.  I didn't need to show the whole world what I cried through, the heartache I had, the laughter I shared, the joys I experienced, and the friends I met.  But I will tell you that while I went into this review thinking it wasn't going to be a good year end review because of one certain circumstance, after writing all that I had done, I was quickly reminded that I indeed had a fantastic year in 2013!

I was able to cross of many of the items on my bucket list.  I did things I never thought I was capable of doing on my own.  I was elected into positions that I'm honored to be a part of.  God removed distractions from my life so that I could become closer to Him.  He brought people into my life who are cherished friends.  It was a full year, and one that was full of truly amazing memories.

But, since some of you are curious as to some of the highlights of my year are, here are a few:
  • Best New Year's Eve/Beginning to 2013 ever
  • I moved from Southern California to Northern California
  • Joined the Symphony and checked off a bucket list goal by playing violin at the Ahwahnee in the Great Lounge
  • Saw Deer, Wild Turkey, Fox, Bear, and so many other animals in my front yard
  • Learned to build a fire in a wood stove
  • Bought a new car
  • Was on Bass Lake on the Fourth of July to watch the fireworks - another bucket list 
  • Photographed Yosemite in all the seasons and had the ability to just go to the park whenever I wanted.  
  • Celebrated my 13th Anniversary in Yosemite.  First time ever that I was back in the park on my anniversary date.  Another bucket list.
  • Hiked Taft Point and became the first person in a wheelchair to make it to the summit.  Another bucket list.
  • Started teaching high schoolers and love it!
  • Spent Thanksgiving in Carmel with an amazing family I met in Yosemite on my 13th Anniversary 
  • Elected the President of the Board of Directors for the Ms. Wheelchair California Foundation
  • Experienced a beautiful snowfall of 7 inches at my house
  • I was able to be there for a family in the last few hours of their husband/dad passing away.  Also asked to play violin at the funeral.
  • Made a Gingerbread House at Tenaya Lodge
  • Finished writing my book.  Another bucket list.
  • Met several people who will be lifelong friends
  • Ended the year by being a blessing to someone else and putting my own desires aside
2013, you were good to me, allowed me to learn a lot of lessons, made me reevaluate the meaning of friendships/relationships, draw closer to God, be a blessing to others, make my own dreams happen, and push myself beyond limits I thought I'd never be able to cross.  While it took some time for me to appreciate you, 2013, I'm grateful for it all and all the lessons I learned.  I'm hopeful and optimistic for a great 2014 as I take the lessons I learned in 2013 and apply them to life in 2014!  Happy New Year, everyone!

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Reflections

Christmas is such a special time of year  - for the main reason that we celebrate the birth of our Risen Saviour, Jesus Christ, but it also marks the first time I ever fell in love.  I loved every single part of it.  Serendipity.  I don't regret a thing about the time and experience, nor do I have any negative memories of my time with him.  I have nothing but love for him and his family.

This year, it's a different Christmas.  A friend of mine helped me cut a real tree (and the tree's name is Mr. Charlie Brown).  I love this picture window in my house, and having the glow of a Christmas tree in the window is nostalgic, even though it doesn't have any of my personal ornaments on it. (The tree would not hold them all as many are heavy.)  This Christmas, I'm single.  And this New Year's, I'll probably still be single.  But this past year in 2013, I have learned so much about relationships - with others, with myself, and with God.

I'm so grateful for those friends that I've made here that are my "family" and have asked me to celebrate various holidays with them over the year.  They are good people.  And though I fell in love on that long midnight drive, it's hard to not thing about that time, that feeling, and the days to follow - especially today - the time I stepped out of the elevator to everyone fade who was around me except him who was a bright light with his smile and embrace.  There's no better feeling than the feeling of being loved and being in love.

But as for this Christmas, I'm single, and I'm okay with it.  And I'm okay that I'm allowing myself to have those memories in my head of the nostalgia of silently saying to God while in that truck waiting at the stop light for cars to pass over the bridge, "I can't believe it's him.  I can't believe it's him."  Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but this year has taught me to let go of my wants and desires.  It's been a year of selflessness.  I've had the opportunity to visit my "heaven on earth" - Yosemite - so many times this year and embrace it's strength and beauty.  I feel like Yosemite is my home, and I don't plan to leave until I hear from God.  I'll be doing a "year in review" for myself in the next few days, and though I shed many tears of heartache and brokenness, I have many more amazing memories that trump those times.  There is a cliche statement of "If you love something, let it go.  If it comes back to you, it's yours forever.  If it doesn't, it was never meant to be."

So, here's to a Christmas being single and being okay with it!  I only want what is meant to be, and I will patiently continue to wait for Jesus to reveal to me who my forever love is in life.  But, I joyfully reflect back on the Christmas with a smile on my face where I was treated like a princess at a ball by one of the most handsome, hard working, and loving men I know.  I pray over his life and whoever he may be with now, that he would treat her the same way he did me - with loving care, joy, and laughter.  He emits love.  Even if he never comes back to me, he was/is the best thing that ever happened to me.

May all of 2014 be MY year!  Merry Christmas to everyone!

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Blazing A Trail - Taft Point, Yosemite National Park


It seems as if once I became paralyzed and accepted it for the most part that life in itself was full of possibilities, even if it seemed to be impossible.  I became more driven, focused, and fearless.  Sometimes I do things to show others that I the wheelchair isn't going to stop me, sometimes I do it to prove to myself that the wheelchair isn't going to stop me, and sometimes I do things just because it's something I want to do.  Hiking Taft Point fell into the later two categories and a smidge into the first.

When I worked in Yosemite in 1999 and 2000, I never (for some reason) hiked Taft Point or Sentinal Dome.  I had done all of the other hard hikes, but never the easy ones.  (I am grateful that I did those hard hikes now!)  I had multiple purposes, however, with this hike.  First and second for what was already mentioned, but since being in a chair, I have always wanted to replicate this photo:

Before I moved to the area, someone who I was very close with was concerned that it wasn't a good idea for me to live here because I would have a hard time getting around Yosemite and wouldn't enjoy it to its fullest, eventually getting frustrated and resenting the fact that I moved.  This has become quite the opposite.  I know he was sincerely looking out for my best interest as he knows the park much better than I do, but once he said that, something in me fired off to prove him wrong because you see, I know my disability better than he does.  That feeling of "I can do it" was there all along, but him saying it confirmed that this was something I wanted to do.  (So as you can see, Yosemite has brought me many amazing adventures and new experiences - ones that I would have never had otherwise.)

I knew that time was getting short before the Glacier Point Road would close.  It had already closed due to a brief snowfall, but thankfully reopened a few days later.  I was also grateful to have someone who I had met previously this year help me video my adventure!  I guess God knew I was supposed to meet him for this reason, even though it was way back in January when I initially met him briefly.

I was so excited the night before.  I was about to do something that no other person has done before (that I'm aware of), and that was to hike the non-accessible Taft Point in Yosemite National Park in a wheelchair.  I had prepared as best I could - packed water, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for afterwards, filled my tires up with air (and prayed they wouldn't pop on the trail) and was set.

I met up with Paul, otherwise known as DoubleRainbow Guy, YosemiteBear, or Bear (whichever you want to call him), in Wawona and together we drove to Taft Point.  I knew my arms would be tired, I knew I'd get dirty, I knew it'd be hard and there would be times I might want to give up, and I knew I would probably fall out of my chair at least once.  I was ready for everything.  Except for 5 foot deep by 7 foot wide trenches, huge boulders, ice, sloped trails, big tree branches, and narrow pathways that even someone who could walk would have a hard time with.  But with each obstacle, God made it so it worked out and I was able to accomplish it - one push at a time.

The first incident happened almost immediately.  I was going downhill, slid on some ice, and tried to maneuver my way around a rock which led to another rock.  Needless to say, I was able to taste Yosemite dirt haha!  Thankfully there wasn't anyone around to witness my embarrassing moment, but Paul helped me back up and we continued on.  (I could have gotten back up into my chair on my own, but obviously if someone is there to help, it is sometimes easier.)

 The next obstacle came almost immediately after that one, and that was the trench!  It was so, so big.  Paul and I looked at each other and I think we both thought the same thing - "there's no way we're getting across that" - but he was very patient, accommodating, and not pushy, allowing me to make my own decision of what I wanted to do and he would go along with it and try as best as he could to make it happen.  And then, just across the trench was a boy scout troop who had just started the hike but their leaders were letting them explore the other side of the trench.  The leaders asked if they could help, and I willingly accepted.  I wasn't too confident in the boys' ability, but they managed quite well along with their troop leaders to get me down and up to the other side.  Angels for sure.

We hiked a few more minutes, and I was breathing harder than I have in quite some time.  You see, the trail that was actually doable (no trenches, boulders, etc) was easy, but it was on a slope.  So not only am I pushing uphill, but I'm pushing harder with one hand than the other in order to stay straight.  At one point, my left hand literally couldn't hold on to the rims any longer because my bicep had cramped up from holding onto it so hard and pushing hard with my right hand to stay straight.  We stopped and took a break.  I stayed on the bottom of the slight incline while Paul went up to the top to see what was ahead and take a break up there.

After I sat there and filmed a brief moment of what I was personally experiencing, I group of people around my age came hiking by me headed towards the Point. They asked if I was okay or needed help, and I said I was fine, was just taking a break, and that I was with Paul up the way.  I guess from their point of view after what we had already traversed, it would have been an odd sight to see someone just sitting there in a wheelchair - a woman nonetheless!  I saw them briefly stop and talk to Paul as I sat there trying to catch my breathe, and then started back up the trail towards them.  Turns out, Paul had asked if they'd be willing to help us get to the end.  All were very willing!  I was a bit apprehensive, because I don't want to ruin someone's Yosemite experience for the first time just to help me out.  But they all said it added to their experience to be helping me achieve a goal, be the first person in a wheelchair to make it to Taft Point, and to have it all documented by a well known YouTuber.

These guys and girls were amazing!  Seriously!  None of them gave up, none of them complained, and each took my safety and theirs into high consideration before trying to do anything that looked dangerous.  They had all come from Santa Rosa (I believe) and were working at a winery for the past few weeks.  They had that weekend off and decided to come to Yosemite!  They were from various places - Vermont, Brazil, South Africa, Czech Republic, and San Jose.  I was so blessed by their humbleness to assist me accomplish a dream, goal, and drive in my spirit to do something I've always wanted to do AND be the first person to do it!



Looking over the edge once I got to the cliff was surreal.  I couldn't get close enough (even though my casters - front little wheels - were about 6 inches from the edge)!  I wanted to experience, feel, embrace, and soak it all in.  The feeling was freeing.  I felt like a bird.  And quite honestly, it's probably the first time I've ever felt like I did back in 1999/2000 when I worked in the park.  I was able to mentally transport myself back in time and remember what it used to feel like to climb/hike to a place similar to this and have the same feeling, forgetting totally about the wheelchair.

There were no barriers, rails, walls, special trails or signs that pointed where the wheelchair access was - there was nothing between me and the bottom of the Valley Floor.  I was not hindered by any barrier, but rather I was one with Yosemite again, having every piece of me being touched by its beauty.  I could have stayed up there all day reminiscing and reveling in the symbolism of this feat.

But alas, we needed to head back before it started to get dark.  After a few pictures and video, we headed back ahead of Paul to make sure I was back safely before it got dark.  We made it back in record time!

I don't think I realized the accomplishment that I had successfully fulfilled until I saw the third of Paul's video.  I cried as I watched it, and it still has a powerful effect on me.  He captured moments that may never be done again, but will always be in my heart and soul, and now on video!  Immediately after seeing it, I called him up crying.  I was experiencing happiness, a feeling of accomplishment, and gratitude all at the same time.  I was a bit overwhelmed with that video as it captured how I felt inside but didn't know how to express outwardly.  t received so many words of encouragement along the way from other hikers as well as those who have watched the videos.  Though this was the longest mile I've ever pushed and was sore for a good week afterwards, I am so proud of myself!

A sincere thank you goes out to Paul for agreeing to help me accomplish this goal.  None of this would have happened had he not agreed to be spontaneous, unafraid, accommodating, patient, caring, and loving to me.  This dream of mine probably wouldn't have happened, and he helped make it possible just by being willing.  It is a memory I will never forget.  To those that helped lift me up, carry me across, or keep me steady on the path, thank you as well!  Your dedication and willingness to help someone you didn't know on your day off, knowing it would take you longer to finish the trail by helping me rather than doing it on your own, and utilizing your own body to help me will make me forever grateful.  I am blessed, and that moment while sitting thisclose to the edge of the cliff was a moment that I felt one with God and His creation.  The voices around me were a faded roar as I sat there and had so many things passing through my mind, yet at the same time, felt a stillness and sweet surrender at the same time.  I had done it!

I did this at my own discretion and willingness, knowing full well that it could be dangerous.  Do not do anything that you do not feel comfortable with or have not taken safety measures ahead of time.  While this was a dream and accomplishment of mine, I also hope it helped bring encouragement to others who think they can't do something because it's "not accessible."  I also hope it shed some light to the National Park Service on how simple things could be done to make trails better.  Not necessarily make them all wheelchair accessible, but perhaps wheelchair friendly.  After all, any improvement that is suggested (like a bridge across that trench) is going to help not only people in wheelchairs, but those who are fully capable of walking to not get hurt.  It would also allow for more people to enjoy Yosemite with just a few modifications.

Know your body.  Know your capabilities.  Yet also be willing to challenge yourself  - even if it comes from someone who doubts your abilities.  So much of what really is possible is a belief of mind over matter.  Don't just take the easy, accessible way!  Go blaze your own trail!

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Alone and Homeless

I have three blogs that I need to finish writing and post, but I needed to write this out for my own benefit.  I'm not looking for sympathy or pity or even for someone to understand, but I just need to write out my feelings.

I don't feel like I have a sense of "home" anymore.  I've lived in California 8 years.  You'd think this would be home, but it's not. I've moved almost every year to a new place within those 8 years - whether it be to another apartment complex, house, or city.  I was once okay with it as I was still enjoying the mirage of exploring California.  But about a year ago (literally), I started praying to God that wherever I move next, wherever he has me move to for whatever reason, that it would be "home" as I was tired of moving so many times and wanted to set roots somewhere for awhile.  One thing led to another, and I thought my prayer had been answered in more ways than one when I moved to northern California.  But after signing a contract on a house, packing boxes (again), loading up a U-Haul (again), having my Dad fly out here to help me move and unload things - after all of that, I was hit with an unexpected blow that this may not be my home after all.  The answer to that prayer and one other huge one had, from what I thought, been finally answered, and I couldn't have been more happier.  And now, 8 months later, I'm left wondering where I belong.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love where I live.  I love that I've accomplished more dreams and accomplishments here than in any other city, and I've been able to establish myself somewhat in the community.  But at the end of the day when I'm in bed, I realize that my prayer(s) weren't really answered.  I don't know where "home" is.  Home is not Atlanta anymore, even though that's where my immediate family lives.  I feel a bit like a nomad, only with a bunch of boxes.  

About a month ago, I met a young lady and felt like a good friendship would blossom by our similarities, sense of adventure, the outdoors, and humanity, among other things.  She is single and around my age, and I finally felt like I would have another person to call up and hang out with.  But she's leaving on Sunday to live in Maui for a few months with her boyfriend.  I feel sad because someone who I was developing a friendship with is now moving far away.  I'm not at all resentful of the fact that she's moving, but I do miss the fact that I won't have the same opportunity to get to know her as well as I'd like if she were here rather than over the internet or phone.  And that's not at all to say that our friendship won't continue.  I hope it does!  But long distance anything is hard - relationship or friendship.  It takes both people to make it work.  She was born and raised here, and all her family is here.  Her dad told me, "Don't worry.  She'll be back.  This is her home."  I realized then at that moment that I don't have that.  I don't know where home is anymore.  I don't know where I'd come back to if I were to go away for a few months.  I thought my roots were going to grow deep here in Northern California, but as for now, that isn't and may not be the case - even as much as I long for it to be right now.  

I guess I'm questioning God again.  Why tell me with unshaken certainty that my prayers were answered only for them to literally vanish?  I was the happiest, most joyful, excited, and undoubtedly certain about this move more than I've ever felt about anything.  Now, I suddenly feel like a pine tree in a hurricane.  Their roots aren't very deep, and when a storm comes, it's easy for them to be uprooted, no matter how big of a tree it is.  I want to be an oak tree, not a pine tree.  I haven't ever been more certain about anything in my life than I did about moving here.  And after that one statement of "Don't worry.  She'll be back.  This is her home." - it hit me that this isn't the home I thought it was supposed to be.  I want it to be.  It was supposed to be.  But living in the mountains comes at a price, and that price is not having a large selection of potential suitors to choose from.  Yes, I want to be married.  Come home to a family.  Care for my husband.  Share life with my best friend.  I just don't think the odds of that happening are tipping in my favor - or any single woman's favor, for that matter.  Not with the quality of man that I desire.  I'm not doubting that God can provide those desires for me anywhere, no matter where I live.  But I'm just being realistic.  And the longer I live here, the more I enjoy living here and dread going to the city.  Such a huge change from Southern California!  But I don't want to be alone, and I guess that's how I feel right now.  Alone and homeless.  (Even though I have a place to live.)

Ultimately, my home is nowhere here on earth.  It is in Heaven.  And I can't wait for that day to come!  But while my earthly body is here on this planet, I'd like to find my home and where I belong.  God didn't make just Adam in the beginning of creation.  He knew he'd get lonely and would need a helpmate.  Thus, he created Eve out of Adam to symbolize their need for each other and for God.  He created us for one another.  I'm ready to be Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and wake up to this all being a dream after saying "there's no place like home" and wake up in a home with all those desires of my heart.  

There's really not an end to this blog because I still feel the same way.  But it helps to sometimes write it out, and maybe someone else feels the same way as I do.  I still feel like this is supposed to be my home, but somewhere for some reason, something happened that I have no clue about and am still left in the dark wishing I could fix it.  Friendships mean so much to me.  And with the Christmas and New Year's arriving, it doesn't help with that feeling of what it should be.  All my dreams and prayers were once answered.  Now, well…. here's to wishing on a shooting star again as I used to do when I'd lay in the meadow in Yosemite looking up at the stars at night.  I know that star will reach God soon and everything will be answered.  And I'm sure I'll look back on this blog in a few months and realize how dumb I am to question God, knowing that He had a plan all along.  But as for now, I feel alone and homeless…...

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