Thursday, November 28, 2013

So Much to Be Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving! Here are some quotes that are fitting for today:
If you're struggling to find the positive in your life I think it helps to focus on the things you DO have, instead of the things you DON'T. I might not have everything other people have, but I sure have a lot more than others who lack the basic necessities of life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Awful, Terrible Wind

Last Saturday when I went out to celebrate my anniversary it was really windy, and it was even windier the next day when I went out to church. Even though we were inside, we could hear the wind gusts howling/whistling. (I heard on the news that there were more than 20 tornadoes that touched down in and around the area. One of them was an EF-4 that destroyed lots of homes and even killed six people.)

There's nothing I hate more than wind when I go out because I cannot stand getting windblown. It drives me nuts to have my hair messed up, especially since I'm at the mercy of someone else to fix it for me, and I don't like looking like a disheveled mess as I wait for someone to get it smoothed out!

The terrible wind last weekend was like déjà vu and took me back to the same weekend 10 years ago. My mom has always been an avid walker and we'd started walking together in the evenings. On Sunday, November 16, Mom and I took what unbeknownst to us would be our last walk together. It was extremely windy that night and we both froze as we walked around the neighborhood (especially when we were walking into the wind). We were so cold that we decided to just walk around the circle in our neighborhood once instead of a few times like we usually did. Although the wind made that walk pretty miserable, I look back on it with such fondness as the last thing my mom and I did together when I was still able bodied.

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK: 50 Years Later

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There's been a lot of' buzz about the assassination since it's a milestone anniversary. I wasn't alive at the time of JFK's assassination, so I don't have strong emotional connections to it like I do other, more recent historical events, like the terrorist attacks on September 11. 
I don't know as much about JFK's assassination as I probably should, so I've enjoyed seeing all of the special reports that have been on TV lately. Last weekend the movie Killing Kennedy premiered on the National Geographic Channel. This movie was based on Bill O'Reilly's book by the same name. When the book came out a few years ago I wasn't keen on reading it, like I was on Bill O'Reilly's book Killing Lincoln. However, after watching the movie I'm putting Killing Kennedy on my "to read" list because I think it would be a good way to learn more of the finer details about Lee Harvey Oswald and why he did what he did.

One of the things that I enjoyed most about the movie was seeing all of the old news coverage. I wasn't alive at the time, so seeing photos and actual news coverage made it seem a lot more real.
I thought that Rob Lowe's and Ginnifer Goodwin's portrayals of President Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy were both really good. They didn't look identical, of course, but they both delivered a believable performance.
Being the First Lady would be a highly stressful job, and I cannot fathom what the day of the assassination must've been like for Jackie. Imagine sitting next to your husband, waving to the thousands of fans lining the street as the president's car slowly makes its way through the streets of Dallas. Then all of a sudden out of nowhere your husband is shot and he keels over in your lap. The utter chaos that followed must've been it absolutely terrifying. Watching the reenactment of the assassination in the movie made my heart break for Jackie. It was especially sobering to see Jackie with dried blood on her face and to see her pink suit stained with her husband's blood.

These are the last photographs taken of President Kennedy and Jackie. They had no idea of the life-changing event that would shortly befall them.
Pretty much everyone alive at the time remembers where they were when they first heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot. I wonder what it would've been like to be alive and to hear that. My mom was 11 at the time and she was telling me some her recollections of the event. She said that her parents kept the TV on at their house nonstop for the next several days as they watched the news reports about it.

I wonder what it would've been like to be alive during such a notable event. The biggest thing that's happened in my lifetime that I can compare it to are the terrorist attacks on 9/11. I definitely remember where I was when I found that news out, and we were glued to the TV, as well. Two questions I wonder about are how would things be different if President Kennedy were never assassinated and what would it be like to have it happen to a current president?

President Kennedy's assassination was of course tragic for our entire country, but I feel the worst for Jackie and for their kids.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Movie and McDonald's

I always do something special to commemorate the anniversary of my car accident. For the past several years I've done game nights with my friends, but I kind of got burnt out on having those since it was a lot of work trying to coordinate the schedules of everyone I wanted there, plus lots of my friends have either moved away or now have young kids. So this year I decided to do one of my favorite things: go to the movies. It's been five months since I've been to a movie, which is a really long time for me!

There are lots of good movies out right now to choose from, but I decide to see Thor: The Dark World. I went with my younger sister Chandra and her boyfriend, and I also invited my friend Lacee and her husband. The movie was good, and so was the company!
After the movie we went out for dinner… to McDonald's! I know that that's about as low-brow as you can get when it comes to choosing a place to eat dinner, but I really love fast food (although I rarely eat it). I dearly love Big Macs, but I just had a cheeseburger, plus three chicken nuggets and some fries. I haven't eaten at McDonald's in several years, so it really hit the spot!

Funny story about McDonald's... When I was a little girl I did not like my mom's hamburgers. There was just something about the meat that I didn't like. The first time I ever ate at McDonald's I asked for a hamburger with "no meat." (True story!) I ended up getting a hamburger (with meat) and I was surprised that I actually liked it. I still didn't care for my mom's hamburgers when I was young because they didn't taste anything like the ones from McDonald's. I eventually started liking my mom's hamburgers, and now I love them (although I still prefer ones from McDonald's!).
Lacee and her husband went to a wedding the previous day and they ran into one of my former classmates, Jason. Lacee told him that we were getting together the next day and asked Jason if he wanted to come to McDonald's after our movie was over so that he could see me. I didn't know he was in town, so it was a nice surprise. It was fun catching up and I just wish we would've had longer to visit.
Mom didn't come to the movies, but she did meet us at McDonald's.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cause for Celebration and Reflection!

The anniversary of my accident is always cause for celebration. Whenever people find out that I actually celebrate the anniversary of my car accident they find that a bit incredulous. Or other people aren't quite sure what to say, because they feel it's a little weird/macabre to congratulate someone on a car accident that crippled their body. However, I look at it as my "second birthday." It's a day to celebrate surviving and being alive.
It's also a time to reflect. My mom, Chandra and I spent lots of time reminiscing together over the weekend. On Sunday night when my mom went to bed I told her to have/get a good night's sleep, unlike the night of November 17 in 2003. This is an excerpt from a narrative my mom wrote about my accident:

I was absolutely heartsick. Here was my beautiful daughter, lying there attached to tubes and machines, unable to move. I loved her with all my heart, and did not want her to die. But how could I want her to live if she were going to be totally paralyzed? What kind of mother would want that for a child? 

On my last visit to Heather’s room before I went home that evening, I decided to let Heather know my feelings. “Heather, you’re hurt really badly,” I said. “The doctors say you can’t move, and that it’s probably permanent. So the choice is yours – if you want to go to heaven with Dad, that is OK with me. You can go. But if you decide to stay here, I’ll be with you every step of the way and do all I can for you. The choice is yours; you decide if you want to go with Dad or stay with us.” Laura, Chandra and I also prayed together in Heather’s room before leaving, and I asked Heavenly Father that her dad be allowed to come and watch over her through the night. To this day, I firmly believe that Heather was given that choice, and she chose to live. When I asked her the next morning if her dad had been there, she blinked her eyes to say “yes.”

At about 11:00 PM, I decided that there was really nothing I could do for Heather by staying in the waiting room, and that I would need to take care of myself, too. So I told the nurse, “I am going home to not sleep.” The nurse assured me that she would call me immediately if Heather’s condition changed during the night, and that I should feel free to call at any time to check on her condition. Not surprisingly, I did not sleep much that night. I alternately cried and prayed. I did call the hospital to check on Heather and was told she was doing fine. 

cannot imagine what that day must've been like for Mom, my close family members, friends and even acquaintances. I honestly don't know what it would be like to receive word that one of my closest family members had been in a tragic car accident. I imagine it's a mind-numbingly surreal feeling that doesn't quite seem real. I know I would think something like, "Five hours ago so-and-so was fine and now THEY'RE DEAD!!!" Or, "I was just talking to so-and-so, and now they're fighting for their life!" May I never find out what those feelings are like firsthand!

Chandra made a little gift for Mom and me. When we asked her why she said, "Because it's a celebration for all of us!"
Chan made a card for each of us. Chandra isn't the kind of person that really enjoys crafting, so when she makes these nice, homemade cards for us it's a special occasion. She always writes of the sweetest notes inside. This one is definitely a keeper!
Chan bought a wooden 'H' for me and glued green chevron-striped paper on it. Then she made some cute embellishments to glue on it. I'm looking forward to putting it on my wall. For Mom she bought a plain 5 x 7 wooden picture frame and then cut colorful magazine pages into strips. She then rolled the magazine strips into tight rolls. She then glued them onto the frame. Both projects turned out really well, and it was sweet for Chan to think of us.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

10 Years of JOY!

Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of my car accident. TEN years! Can it really be that long?! As a whole, it's actually gone very quickly, but when I stop to think about all of the little things that have happened during the past decade I realize just how long it's been. Here are a few of the highlights:

I've seen two of my sisters get married (not to mention many of my friends). I've become an aunt 16 more times. (I had four nieces at the time of my accident. Now I'm up to 12 nieces and eight nephews.)

I've seen my younger sister Chandra experience a lot: four years of high school, college, two different jobs and much, much more. She was only 14 when I had my accident (she turned 15 a few weeks later while I was in the ICU). She's grown up from a young teenager and is now more than five years older than I was when I had my accident!

I've been remarkably healthy for a quadriplegic that's paralyzed from the neck down (far healthier than many people in my condition). The Lord has truly blessed and watched over me, and I know it's my faith in God that's kept me so healthy.

It took awhile, but I've finally came into my own. There's a steep learning curve that accompanies becoming totally paralyzed, but I've adjusted and I'm now in my groove. I've found purpose and meaning in my new life and I've discovered what my mission is: to spread joy, positivity and hope to the world.
I found my niche in blogging in 2009. I've been blogging for more than four years now and it's been an amazing experience. My blog has spread far and wide, and my words are reaching people in places I never would've expected! I frequently get emails from people going through their own challenges and they tell me that reading my posts gives them a little escape and helps them gain a little more perspective on life and why we have to do hard things! Blogging is a lot of work (far more than people would probably expect), but it's rewarding work and I get just as much out of it as I put into it.

My four older sisters all lived in different states at the time of my accident, so they all came home for Thanksgiving (about 10 days after my accident) since my long-term survival was in question.
Then and now… not too shabby!
If I had to grade my own paper on how I've handled this challenge of mine over the past 10 years, I would give myself an A+ with a great big smiley face and a gold star. (I always loved getting smiley faces and stickers on my work in elementary school, so I suppose I'm still a child at heart!) At the risk of sounding prideful, I think I've done a great job living this disabled life of of mine! I haven't been the model of patience every step of the way, but I think I've handled this trial with a grace and optimism that the Lord would be proud of. It's good to be alive!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

It's important to live in the moment and to not procrastinate or push things off until later because something unexpected could happen and you might just lose your chance forever.
As I look back on my life, there's lots of things I wish I would've done that are no longer an option for me now that I'm paralyzed. I wish I would've learned to play the piano. We didn't have a lot of money for extracurricular activities/lessons when I was a kid, so my mom said she would teach me if I wanted to learn. I played during the summer for a couple of years, but that was about it. I just didn't make practicing a priority. I'm sure I would've been more diligent and would've tried harder and taken it more seriously if I''d had a teacher other than my mom, but that wasn't an option.
I wish I would've learned to swim. I never had lessons when I was a child, and have always had a fear of deep water. My mom offered to pay for swimming lessons when my younger sisters took them, but by that time I was 15 and I didn't want to learn to swim with a bunch of little kids. I wish I would've taken the lessons when I had the chance. Of course in the end it wouldn't have really mattered if I would've learned to swim or play the piano since I was destined to become paralyzed, but I still wish I could claim them on my list of accomplishments.

[Something I DID do that I'm very grateful I did was go white water rafting when I was 17. My family was going on vacation and. I was terrified of doing it (largely because I didn't know how to swim). I was so scared that I almost didn't do it. My mom said it was up to me and I did go in the end. I'm so glad I did, especially since I would no longer be able to if I'd passed it up. If I hadn't done it I'd really regret it and would definitely look on it as a missed opportunity. Here's a picture to prove I did it (I'm the one with the yellow paddle). I'm glad I bought one a pic for proof!]
I should've learned how to do more things. For example, my younger sister Chandra has recently started crocheting and she makes it look so fun. I'm totally jealous of her moving fingers because I know I would enjoy it! It's such a relaxing hobby. I know the basics of crocheting, but I never got very good at it. Here's a picture of me doing a little crocheting over Christmas break, about 12 years ago when I was 17. (How young I look!)
I could've/should've been a better student. I got A's and B's for the most part, so it wasn't like I was a total slacker by any means, but I know I could've been so much better. I wish I would've tried harder and would've pushed for great instead of being content with good. I worked quite a bit at the movie theater through my junior and senior years of high school, so finding a balance between work and school/studying was hard. If I hadn't had a job I think I would've done even better, but I really liked working and wouldn't have wanted to give up my job.

I wish I would've gone away to college instead of commuting to college while living at home. I don't think I made the wrong decision, but sometimes I regret not having the whole college experience. I've never lived on my own and never will have the opportunity to since I'm now paralyzed and dependent on others for my every need. I just wish I would've lived on my own when I had the chance. No biggie in the end, but it just would've been nice to be able to say, "I did that."
Since I do wish I would've done more with my time before my accident, I try hard to not make the same mistake nowadays. I try hard to be productive and to not let my nervousness/timidity keep me from taking part in opportunities that come my way.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and re-live certain situations/scenarios of my life where I wish I would've tried harder, would've been kinder, would've exercised more self restraint, would've just been plain all-around better. (Not that I was a terrible person or anything... I just wish I would've been the kind of person where if I came up in conversation people would say' "Heather's the best: so helpful, so kind, so nice.")
There are no "do overs" in life. If you mess up you can't go back in time and redo whatever it is you've done poorly. The point of life is all about becoming a better person as you learn from the mistakes you've made, so you just have to recommit yourself to doing better in the future.
Guilt is one of the worst feelings in the world, in my opinion, and it makes it hard to forgive ourselves. But if you repent and make things right you should forgive yourself. Resolve to do better in the future and move on. Looking back or saying "what if?" only wastes the limited time we have left.
It's nice to know that tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities. We can always start again!
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