I’m back! In case you were wondering, I have not abdicated my purple, blogging chair on wheels… The end of 2015 was filled with many health-related surprises that led to emergency surgery. Ringing in the new year recovering from anesthesia is definitely one way to spend the holiday, but I think I’ll make different plans for next New Year’s Eve!
I’d like to thank everyone for their support through 6 of the most challenging weeks of my life. Whether you prayed for me, sent emails and texts to check on me and buoy my spirits, dropped everything to stay with me, sent beautiful purply items to keep me warm, galvanized your faith community to pray for me, gave me copious hugs or kept me laughing through some frightening moments, I felt the power of your love and I am grateful to, and for, each of you! May you all be surrounded by purply blessings! 😊
Love and Blessings Always,
Without further ado, here’s today’s post…
I absolutely love to ski!! One of the few things I love more than skiing is telling people I ski and seeing the looks of complete befuddlement on their faces. Usually, people get these looks for one of two reasons. One, they have just met me and cannot fathom how I ski. I can usually see the conversation going on inside their heads… “How do I politely ask Allison ‘how in the world do you ski given the fact that your balance isn’t the best and your arm control leaves a bit to be desired?!’ ” Or, two, if they know me, the fact that I participate in adventure sports is no surprise. The surprise to them is that I willingly sit outside, in the freezing cold, and call it fun. The reason this comes as a surprise is because on more than one occasion in the winter, I have had the following conversation in my apartment …
“I am freezing. Can you please tell me what the thermostat says?” I say.
“Sure Allison… It says 85 degrees,” says my friend.
“No wonder I am so cold! Can you please put the thermostat on 89 degrees?”
Yes, my local heating company loves me!
I started skiing as a teen. Prior to my first ski trip, I vividly remember my mother purchasing all the necessary gear for skiing, not sleeping for the week before and talking about the impending trip with my friends for weeks, yes weeks, before the actual trip. The day of the trip was simply amazing! As a person who has spasms and uses a wheelchair, blazing down those ski trails in a ski with speed and grace was completely unexpected. I’ve participated in adaptive sports all my life, but never quite had the feeling of exhilaration, or mastery, that came on that mountain. Since my initial foray into skiing, I’ve skied mountains from California to Maine and continue to ski today.
Even though I’ve been skiing for 20 years, I still get a new perspective on life with every trip to the slopes. In graduate school, I joined MIT’s ski club while I was writing my dissertation. During one particularly challenging period of writing my dissertation, the club went on a ski trip to Bretton Woods. I was so excited to go to get away from campus for the day, and, hopefully, gain some much-needed perspective on the challenges I was encountering.
Bretton Woods had a special type of sit-ski that enabled me to ski completely independently for the first time. I spent 30 minutes in that ski learning a whole new style of skiing. Once I was proficient, my ski instructors and I went all over that mountain. I had a blast and I was able to control all of my movement on the slopes for the first time! I loved it! I became the purple blur on the White Mountains of New Hampshire!
After about 60 minutes of skiing easy and semi-easy trails, my lead instructor told my other instructors that we were going to ski down a particular trail(I forget the name). My other instructors questioned him, saying that the trail was a difficult intermediate trail and my ski wasn’t built to go down such a steep trail. The lead instructor vetoed their concerns and pushed me to the top of the trail. I looked down and immediately started praying, “Dear Lord, please help my instructor see what I see, which is if I go down this trail, I will be meeting You shortly! Amen!”
I shared part of my prayer with my instructor, who after a hearty laugh, told me I was one of the most talented skiers he had instructed and I could do it. He said he’d guide me through the steepest part and then I could take off on my own. I was still less than convinced, but hey, he’d gotten me this far and the trail looked like fun. So, I took a deep breath and started down the trail.
At first, every muscle in my body tightened in sheer terror, but once I saw that I was doing it, that I was staying upright and skiing past non-disabled skiers, I relaxed, took my hand off the brakes and went FLYING down that trail!! I giggled and screamed in pure delight all the way down. When we got to the bottom of the hill, my body was electric! I had so much energy coursing through my muscles. One of my instructors said, “I didn’t know that ski could go that fast!” My lead instructor laughed and asked me how I felt. Naturally, I replied, “Can we do that trail AGAIN!!??”
While learning a new ski, skiing independently for the first time and skiing that trail were all so amazing that words cannot express their majesty, they were not the most glorious part of that trip. The most glorious part of the trip was doing all of this with my lead ski instructor, who is a Vietnam War veteran and a bilateral amputee, which means he has no hands and no arms. He helped transfer me out of my wheelchair into the ski, taught me how to ski, helped me keep my balance on the slopes and encouraged me with two prosthetic arms, a rubber hand and a hook. By the end of that ski trip, I was ready to tackle my dissertation… I transferred the energy, inspiration and rekindled belief in myself to my studies. Nothing was going to stop me from finishing my dissertation!
Every trip to the slopes shows me just how much more we can accomplish when we support and encourage one another to push beyond what we think is possible. I have my ski goggles… let’s ski over some more barriers!
Below is one of many pictures of my lead ski instructor and I from that day. I promise, that’s me under all those layers of purple! I love to ski but I still like to stay as warm as possible!
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