Thursday, August 25, 2011

That time I came home to a surprise home makeover!

AJ and I came home to the greatest surprise of our lives. I still can't even believe it.  While were gone, our home ward got together to do service for us (I know, for us?!?). They provided me with a new lift to get in and out of the house in and a home make over to accommodate my wheelchair. They worked over a week to widen the doors in our house, paint the rooms, pour a concrete sidewalk, fix the room, reinforcements--all in anticipation for a lift that would ease my daily routine (not have to be carried up and down the stairs everyday), and enable me to be more mobile and independent. 
The Lakeview 8th Ward showed their love for us by this giant surprise.
Pouring cement for the new sidewalk that leads to the lift. 
The New Lift

I have to give the biggest "Thank You" of my life. I am amazed by the number of people out there who are so willing to contribute their time, talent, and efforts to help ease my life. I feel so fortunate that these are the people I get to call my neighbors, and even better, that they make up my ward family. I am so touched by such a generous act of love and service. There was not a better gift I could have asked for.  And our dear family who kept this huge surprise from us. I can't believe it! This is such a huge blessing. I'm so excited to use it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

First time in New York City in a Wheelchair

New York City really is the city that never sleeps. I don't know how you can when there's so much to see!  We had a lot of fun exploring this exciting city.  I really wish we could stay maybe just even a few more months. Wait, I just thought about it and I wouldn't want to try traversing the crowds of tourist for an extensive time!

There's so much history here, especially our most recent and unforgettable one--September 11th.  I will never forget the day I learned about this dreadful event that marked American history forever.  All of the surrounding areas of the Towers were wheelchair accessible, minus the metro. We learned the hard way that not all NYC metros, actually a limited few are wheelchair accessible with lifts. So I was awkwardly carried up and down many flights of stairs around the metro until we found the exit. NYC is definitely a walkable city with curb cuts for wheelchairs for the most part.  I would suggest doing that whether or not you're in a wheelchair, unless you're limited on time, then catch a cab (very expensive) or find the bus route (it's fairly punctual).  Not only is strolling around fun, but sure is fun to see all the details. However, a little disclaimer is that there are some hills, which is miserable in the summer with a backpack in the back of the wheelchair.

AJ and I were very fortunate to go see the very popular show, "Wicked" on Broadway.  That was such a magical event. I enjoyed every last bit of the musical. I wish I could to see it again!!!  I loved how much it made me laugh and the way the actors sang each song so beautifully and passionately.  I was so grateful that Gershwin theater was wheelchair accessible.  And because my husband and I called in to the theater ahead of time, we were able to get tickets for half price for the evening show, with really nice seats right up from the center of the stage.
We were also able to watch "Phantom of the Opera," which was also a beautiful classic, known worldwide.  The Majestic theater was a little less accessible than Gershwin, but they were still accommodating and also gave us and our friend a half price discount.  We sat to the left and a few rows away from the stage. 

**FYIW: If you go to the discount ticket office in the middle of Times, you can get ahead in the line by flagging the line attendant.

I would live in NYC, just to be able to watch the musicals.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Around Historical Boston in a Wheelchair

The city of Boston is very enchanting with a myriad of cultures, history, people--life.  I loved having so many Italian restaurants to choose, walk the Freedom Trail, walk the city at night, cheer at a Red Sox game, eat at a Hard Rock (My goal is to go to a Hard Rock whenever we visit a new place, I collect their pins and love everything there!). The tricky part is wheeling on the old cobble stone roads and broken cement side walks.

We made it in time to get our friend, Jeff from the Boston Logan International Airport in our rental, which was kind of confusing to get to with lots of construction and junctions.  After we picked him up, we went into the North End via our GPS, Richard to catch our reservation at an Italian restaurant called, Antico Forno.  However, it was a huge pain to get there; we took a wrong turn and ended up traveling back to the East End.  There are lots of one way streets and the restaurant was located in very small area (Come on, it's the North End) and no parking spots readily available.  We found a street that went through street cleaning, so people weren't allowed to park there for a while. Basically, driving in old town Boston is a nightmare. Try public transportation like the subway, the T, which is wheelchair accessible.

We snagged a spot right next to Copp’s cemetery, the second oldest in Boston along the Freedom Trail.  We were there briefly when it began to rain.  It was kind of scary go up and down hill (which there are many in Boston) and especially when the boys carried me up the slippery steps of the cemetery to take a quick gander, where pirates and witches were hung. 

We walked down hill to the Old North Church, which was wheelchair accessible, except I couldn't make it up the stairs to see where the action went on.  The entrance fee is donation based.  It was a cool to see the pews and the names of those who owned them such as Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere.  The richest could afford the closest seats.  We learned about the night of Paul Revere’s ride and how the church keeper helped him by running the lantern to the top to alert the colonists that the British were coming.  One of the French generals back then said that the bust of Washington there is the closest to his likeness.

Boston Commons
Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays- Fenway Park
As a wedding present, one of our friends, Peng kindly gave us tickets to a Red Sox game during the time we were there so we didn't have to find scalpers for our tickets, but for Jeff's. Of course it was very expensive and standing room, but well worth it.  We were led to wheelchair seating right near the Green Monster, and AJ and Jeff rotated sitting during the game.  The stadium itself was well adapted for wheelchairs with disable restrooms, ramps and lifts instead of stairs.  Unfortunately, our Sox lost this game, but we still had a great time!

Boston skyline at night

 I love Boston. I could definitely see myself living here someday. I find the East Coast culture very intriguing (don't get me wrong, I love the West, especially my sweet home state of California!).  There are many differences here mixed in with such a long historical background. You also gotta love the Bostonian accent and cannolis! 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friends in the MBM

AJ served as a missionary for two years for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Massachusetts Boston Mission.  He returned home nearly four years ago this coming September, which is when we first met (We went on our first date in late October).  We decided that this summer would be the summer he finally returns to his mission and I finally get to meet all the people he served and see all the places he has been to.

AJ learned the Cambodian language on his mission by serving the Cambodian community in mainly Lowell (Where the movie, "the Fighter" is based).  It was pretty cool to see how the sisters in the gospel were so strong (there were very little priesthood holders, sadly).  Everything here reminds me of being back home in Fresno, CA among the Cambodian community there.  Their lives are so similar despite the distance and environment.  It was also good to practice my language while there.  It's been so long!  We also got to hang out with some of his mission buddies who were also there for a summer visit.  We went out for a good hot pot meal.  A delicious meal with funny friends, what more could I ask for?

AJ also served people of many other ethnic diversity in Lynn.  My favorite is a family from Guatemala.  They are such a strong family in the gospel.  They are the epitome of sacrifice for love and family.  Both husband and wife work very hard both at home and at work to earn money for rent in their little apartment, necessities, and operations for their little daughter's heart.  Oh my.  On top of that, he had to make the tough decision of either keeping his job and working on Sunday's, or giving up a stable income to be with his family at church on Sunday's.  He chose the latter.  It was difficult at first, but Heavenly Father will send blessings to those who follow His teachings and make sacrifices out of love for Him.  They were such an example to me.  I want to be just like them when I grow up!