Friday, July 18, 2014

Hey Friends!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin. It's a site where you can find lots of cool popular blogs of all sorts of categories. It might make it easier for you to catch up on posts and find more things to read. I've personally loved checking out other blogs about travel, DIY, food. Join in on the fun and add your own as well. Plus, feel free to leave a link to your blog here. I'd love to check it out sometime. Happy reading!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sweetness {in Yosemite}

While I was recovering from my spinal cord injury,  my doctor came in one day to have "the talk" with me -- you know, the one about my situation, my life, my future. He knew I was struggling with this new reality of paralysis {something any 20-year old would struggle with}, especially because of multiple unforeseen health set backs. He related something to me that resonated with me then and would stick with me to this day. He began by telling me how life is filled with bittersweetness. There are moments when everything goes wrong and is beyond our control. They may be moments that we feel hurt and hopelessness, like we've been backed into a corner and there's no place to go. That is the bitterness in life. In those moments, we often wish all the pain and confusion would go away because they're anything but bearable. However, it may not seem like it at the time, but those moments are necessary and are part of a plan to help us grow and progress. They will make sense in time. We will come to differentiate the happy from the sad, the good from the bad, and come to appreciate those moments of sweetness as they come {and they will come}. "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." -2 Nephi 2:25. That conversation not only gave me hope that things will get better in the midst of all the chaos in my life, but it gave me purpose in my life -- to seek for the sweetness in life and hold onto it with dear life because those moments would be my foundation in times of hardship {which will come as well}.

Years later, I find myself continuing to seek for the sweetness in each day of my life. Looking for the good, the blessings, the things that make me smile have lifted up my spirits beyond what I had imagined in those initials days. I feel I'm a happier person when I look for reasons to be happy. I am more appreciative of the things and people in my life when I think of the good they've brought me. I am more learned as I seek to be challenged. I am more reliant on God when I put my trust in Him. With all that said, I've become more accepting of this new reality as someone with paralysis as I count all of the blessings that have entered my life since then -- strength, wisdom, faith, happiness, love, education, and adventure. Seeking for the sweetness of life has given me reason to smile and love my life.

One of the things that helps me continually taste the sweetness of life is going after adventures. When my host parents were with me in California, we adventured in my backyard, Yosemite National Park -- home to giant sequoias, beautiful waterfalls, and wild animals including the black bear -- one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. Going through the park brought back so many wonderful memories and reminded me of how much I used to love hiking before the accident. But once we got started hiking over big over grown roots and rocks, we realized this was going to be a huge challenge in a wheelchair. Let's face it, this adventure just got more interesting. There was a lot lifting and pushing {believe me, it was quite a sight}. It took a lot work on my family's part but we made it through. I left feeling really grateful for my friends and family who insist on helping me relish in the sweetness of life, but heck, they themselves make up the sweetness of life for me as well.
There's not a sweeter thing in the world than the bond between a child and those who love him so much.
Our hike to through Mariposa Grove and to Yosemite falls was beautiful. We saw humungous rocks that my host dad easily wedged himself in between as well as many sky high trees along the way. We could hear the roar of the falls long before we actually got there.
www.diaryofatravelingwheelchair.comWe drove up to Yosemite Valley to admire the view of trees and waterfalls from on top of the massive mountain. I looked out in awe of this gift Heavenly Father has given to us. What beauty, love and creativity. I feel so fortunate to be alive now and to be able to enjoy such peace and recharge. It was pure sweetness.

There's so much sweetness in life to bask in and I've been compiling a list of it as I go along in my journal. I would love to hear some of the things you find sweet in life -- things your family does, places you've seen, things you've done. Please share so we can celebrate this sweetness together!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Independence Day {in Mt. Rushmore}

This past weekend, my family and I went on a quick road trip adventure to Mount Rushmore for Independence Day. The beauty of a road trip is being able to drive ahead on an endless road and think as much or as little as one would want. The choice is yours. No pressure and no time restrictions, unlike those of the everyday demands of life. On this trip, we drove quite a ways {10 hours, with a 10-year old and a 10-month old. I opted to give my mind a break whenever I could} through Wyoming. We saw sheep roaming green hills like in Scotland, and skinny trees {some charcoaled from the heat of the sun} and boulders that reminded us of those closer to home in Yellowstone. We had a lot of time to relax, talk, laugh {and we truly laughed until our stomachs hurt}, play with baby, and even memorize Jack Johnson's "At or With Me" with Holly {she was super excited that she could sing with us big kids}. We had a superb drive.

Mt. Rushmore was just what I had hoped it would be. I had never been before so all of the notions I had were from what I had seen in photos and movies like Cary Grant's To Catch a Thief. Sadly we weren't able to climb around on the Presidents' heads like in the movie because of safety and for preservation sake, but we did get to admire them safely from afar. While taking our sweet time to take pictures and gaze yonder, we felt raindrops on us and suddenly hail the size of gum drops came pouring down in broad daylight! That was just about the fastest storm I've experienced, well maybe not as fast as flash floods in Cambodia, but you get the point.
 These two have the cutest relationship I've ever seen. She loves him and he loves her. They amuse each other and give plenty of kisses every single day. I just adore it. I hope that never changes...

We sought refuge at the museum and got to learn more on top of what we already knew. You see, we wanted this to be a significant trip for Holly so we had her do research on the significance of each president {Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln} ahead of time {gotta keep that brain going through summertime} and report back to us. This proved to be fruitful because not only did she learn a lot about the presidents and the park but she was proud of knowing as much as she did when she was going through the museum. It's important that she be excited to learn and confident in having knowledge for the rest of her life. I hope that will serve her well in attaining her maximum potential. I loved everything I learned at the museum. I was impressed by the process {they were constructed by dynamites!} and time it took to be complete {14 years!} all of the presidents. And it was pretty cool that there was a ceremony for the completion of each one {I love parties}. There were things like a little 15 min. video, moldings, photos, stuff the workers used, news articles, etc. to give us a glimpse of life then. Pretty cool stuff.

After the rain let up, we went over to get ice cream. Apparently, Jefferson was the first person in America to write the first ever vanilla ice cream recipe, so we definitely had to have some of that. Holly and I shared a strawberry cheesecake ice cream cone, but half way through, she dropped the ice cream. She still hasn't lived that down. We teased her about dropping my ice cream and ripping me off of some ice cream goodness {I don't really mind, but we just love to give her a hard time. There's nothing like some sibling love to help keep her young and light-hearted}.

We stayed for the 9 PM program and got to hear a park ranger give a patriotic speech of the importance of freedom and equality. Something that really struck me was that these presidents despite their differences in nature, parties, actions, etc. each contributed to making this country what it is and have perpetuated this freedom we all enjoy.
**There were no fireworks display {and hasn't been since 2009}, due to dryness in the area and risk of fires.

This was a refreshing break for me. Some time to regroup my spirit to take on whatever comes next. I was ever so grateful for everyone's cooperation and help on this trip, especially in terms of handling baby. And my dear husband, bless his heart, had to drive the whole time with no one to alleviate him because I don't drive yet {one day...}. I'm so grateful for him {another great reminder from the road trip of how amazing he is}. I'm thankful for America, the great men who made it what it is today, and for God who is ever so great.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Killing Fields

Today is my brother, Anthony's birthday and as much as we'd love to have him with us, eating some cake and playing zookeeper together, we know he's dedicated to a good cause right now. He is currently on a church mission in Cambodia right now and will be there through next year, doing service and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the 10 months that he's been there, he's written home about how he's helped with floods, helped people move homes, ridden his bike miles on end to visit people, and been rejected again and again to find the one person at the edge of the village who will listen to the gospel. With each letter, I can see the change in him through these experiences and how he's growing into such an amazing young man. I am so proud of his dedication to the Lord's errand.

This past week, he wrote about going to visit the Killing Fields for the first time. These are sites were the Khmer Rouge soldiers held their own people captive, tortured and killed them. Anthony wrote,

" One of the most powerful things said was that slaughter and persecution WILL happen again, and when it does, remember us. That was extremely powerful to think about the world as it is now. Are we standing up for human rights and civility? Are we doing our part in order to help fight against the inhumanities that are happening? We can't fix everything all at once but we can slowly try to make this world a better place through the little things."

I remember going to the Killing Fields feeling so sad and depressed to know that so many people suffered. It still haunts me to this day, listening to a story of how babies were thrown against this one particular tree at Cheung Ek and brutally killed in that manner. I've thought of that quite often since Boston was born. As I look at his innocent face and think of the loss many mothers had to bear to see their children killed like animals, I mourn over the excruciating pain they must've felt. To think of a life that could have been, opportunities gone, innocent lives lost. There's nothing is comparable.

How could such evil be among men? There was such darkness that caused all of that misery. It was a reminder that Satan was present then and is ever so present now. It made me think twice before I ever used the word "hate" again. It made me second guess whenever I thought ill of someone else. It made me more conscious of what I do and how I act because all of these things could become another Khmer Rouge in my life, and I would never want to cause so much pain to someone else. Everyday is a struggle for each one of us. What are we doing to fight Satan's temptation? What are we doing to strive to be better than the person from the day before? What are we doing to live the gospel and let it radiate through us? I'm so imperfect, but because of the gospel, I know how I can become who I want to be - a goddess who deserves to live with our Heavenly Father again.

As Independence Day approaches, let us remember the freedom and agency we are granted and enjoy each day of our lives. I'm grateful for a nation that understands and protects that freedom of speech, religion, and press, so I may freely choose, which is what I believe God sent each of us here to do. We  need to make choices so we may learn, grow and prepare but Satan wanted just the opposite which is to take choice away from us and the Khmer Rouge was the just same. I can't imagine a life of having no choice and living in fear of what I say and believe. Sadly there are so many others in the world today who still lack freedom and living fear because of corrupt officials, druglords, pimps, gangs, drugs, etc. It seems overwhelming, but I believe as Anthony said earlier. Little by little, we can make the world a better place for others to live in. We've got to keep trying. It seems a difficult task now, but I hope that one day, all nations will grant the freedom to all of their inhabitants and that we may live happily together. One day, I hope that my little Boston will be able to go on his own adventures and travel to any nation in the world without fearing for his life, nor have to see the sadness that comes from a lack of freedom. Viva America!

I guess being alive for 22 years does grant some more wisdom. Happy Birthday, Anthony!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


You've probably noticed an explosion of World Cup photos on my Instagram, but it's only natural as we're tuning in along with the rest of the world to watch the games.

All of the t.v.'s and computers around our house are turned to soccer, and we have no shame about it. I only wish we had Brazil's soccer dedication in the U.S. where shops and banks close early so people could go home to watch the games.

Although our beloved America lost today, we are so, so proud of them for getting this far. And as our wonderful Brazil, we can't wait to see what happens.

I just wanted to share one of my favorite commercials from this World Cup by Hyundai. This is how we've all been. #Becausefutbol. Happy World Cup!

I left my Heart in San Francisco

It's been several years since I've been home so it was definitely wonderful to be back for a while, especially to show my host family what I've been raving about all of these years. California has so much to offer. From the natural beauty of mountains, valleys, and beaches to the manmade fun of the Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood. We wanted my host parents to see as much as they could in a week.

Our first stop in California was San Francisco, the home of up and downhill trekkers, Golden Gate crossers, and cable car riders. This place is supposed to be super wheelchair accessible. How? I'm not sure because the steep hills make it seem impossible. But it really did begin in this area.

We were starving when we got into town and were in the mood for Japanese food. We found a restaurant in the Union Square area called, Dojima-Ann, which was rated 4 stars and was decently priced. We were not disappointed as there was a huge selection of food on the menu, and all were so good and well-portioned. That was seriously one of the best Japanese places I've ever eaten at. Yum!

We spent a day walking/wheeling through the Fisherman's Wharf, which was wheelchair accessible all the way through. It was a beautiful sunny, yet windy day. The wharf was packed with cars, trolleys, and seagulls, which added to the excitement of the day. There was music blasting along the road, tons of people just hanging out at bars, and street musicians chiming in too. The smell of the sea and fried fish were so familiar. Even though I was so full from Japanese food earlier, I really, really wanted fish and chips, but I had to discipline myself.
So many beautiful boats!
We explored the old U.S. naval ship from World War II, which was pretty grand {talk about vintage}. It was decked out with red, white, and blue flags all over, which I love. I'm a sucker for patriotic holidays because I love living in this country so much. We got to read about life on the ship and it didn't seem the least bit appealing to me. I couldn't imagine life in such tight quarters for months on end with other stinky, gross men. Germs, people. GERMS!

There were tons of little shops that sold iconic tokens of San Francisco and they were cheap! We found things from seashells to crazy seagull hats. My host mom and I LOVED it! We also serendipitously found many beautiful vintage cars driving about, which the boys really enjoyed. See, there was something for everyone to see. Even baby got a kick out of the seagulls that mommy wouldn't let him touch.

It was different to see trolley tracks everywhere along the wharf as they're rare throughout the rest of California. We were waiting for the cross signal at a stoplight long enough to see two bikers who were turning and get their wheels caught in the tracks and fell. Ouch! The city certainly needs to fix that because I'm sure it happens very frequently and is dangerous for other bikers as well.

We finished off the night by watching the sunset behind the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. I have surely missed the California sunsets. I felt so relaxed and happy. What a beauty. If you've never been to California, take it from me, we mean business when it comes to sunsets. It's worth a spot on the bucket list, especially coupled with the Golden Gate.

Well, no one left their heart in San Francisco this time around, except lots and lots of change {ouch it was expensive!} I was so glad we got to take my host parents there and that they enjoyed it. We didn't get to stay for long, but it was an amazing day at the Wharf. I could have definitely done a little more people watching and fish and chips eating. We'll have to plan more time to do more exploring around there. But it's always good to leave something behind to come back for.