Sunday, May 28, 2017

Anniversary - Our Story

Our story began 10 years ago, when a simple boy decided to be brave and asked a brave girl to simply take a chance on him. He fascinated her with all his stories and love for life. She fascinated him with her awe and love for people. He and she spent hours at Borders, reading and discovering the world together; days, texting Jack Johnson lyrics to each other; months, conversing and learning to learn together. He taught her how to snowboard and she taught him how to run.

He and she spent four years as two people on shared adventures. Little by little, he and she grew together.  He knew she loved him and she knew he loved her. Even when tragedy came, and she could no longer snowboard, nor run, he carried her up and down stair cases, and kept singing Jack Johnson songs to her. He told her he loved her and wiped away her tears. He nursed her back to health with love. He took her on many adventures in a wheelchair.

Hours turned to days and days into years, and he asked her to be his forever. He and she soon embarked on an adventure as one person. They laughed together, cried together, and occasionally, got mad at each other. They saw the world together. They served together. They played together. They loved each other. And now six years later, hand in hand, two beautiful children of their own, they get to be on the greatest adventure (and laugh super hard) together.

Happy Anniversary, Honey.

These six years have been the best of my life. I love our story. I love you more than words.

Celebrated by visiting the Fresno CA LDS Temple!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Motherhood and Mother's Day

Being a mother has been one of the most special and eye opening experiences for me. When I embarked on this journey, I never would have imagined I would learn as much as I have. To love a soul so deeply without desire for anything in return exemplifies the pure love and goodness that we human beings are all capable of--that is how I would describe my motherhood experience. I try to keep it simple in Clan Huntington by embracing my role as a mother and enjoying the mundane activities with my children. My love for my children is a simple one and it seems that's all they really want or need. Even though it's a tiring and challenging task (wheelchair aside), I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be #rbabyboston and #radorableaudrey's momma!

I couldn't have gotten this far in mothering without the examples and help of my husband and the women in my life. This Mother's Day, I'd like to reflect a little on the women who have helped me along my journey as a mom. Their examples inspire me to be the mom my children need and deserve. By being just who they are, they've positively impacted my life, and that of my children, in so many ways.

The first woman in my life is my mother who is a brave and strong being. She survived a genocide in her home country, Cambodia. As a child, she experienced many unbearable things that no little girl should have to go through. Growing up, we had many challenges understanding one another as our way of seeing the world was so different. It wasn't until I learned more of her story that I realized what a miracle it is that she is here and how amazing she is. It has taken years, but I am grateful for the strength she demonstrates and showing me that I can do hard things.

Utah, 2016

In high school, I had the greatest AP Literature teacher, Mrs. Cat. She has the heart of a saint and the mouth of a sailor (jk, not kidding). She has gone through some really hard trials and has demonstrated great faith in God. She is so accepting of people from all walks of life. She took care of me during some really hard times in my life, and continues to take care of me and my little family today. She is always someone I could talk to and go to for advice (especially really radical, outlandish ones. lol). If I ever need a good laugh or some inspiration, she's my go-to gal. She has taught me to trust in God and not take life too seriously.

Kitty Cats, 2017

On my foreign exchange in Brazil, I was given some of the most magnificent host moms. My first was Mãe Telma. She is all sorts of amazing. For her, family is always first. She is my inspiration for balancing family, a full-time job, service, friends, and fun so well. I'm always captivated by the stories she shares from every day life and travel adventures. And I'm touched by the kindness and empathy she gives so freely to everyone. She inspires me to look for the good and carpe diem.

Yosemite National Park, 2014
Mãe Marilene is the gentlest of all souls I've ever met, and anyone who meets her would say the same thing. She is so kind and so easy-going with everyone. She's my "chorona," because she is super sentimental, and I love her for that. I miss the days of learning to do different craft things with her like crocheting, knitting, and scrapbooking. She inspires me to slow down, enjoy the little things, and live simply.

Foz do Iguaçu, 2007

Ana Cristina is special to me in so many ways. For one, I had never met someone who helped me understand and love the LDS faith so passionately. Her explanation of miracles instilled in me a desire to know more of God and better understand His love for me. She encouraged me to apply to BYU, where I ended up meeting my husband (we owe her for A LOT). I am grateful for her love and kindness.

Brazil, 2007

Last, but not least is my mother-in-law, aka Boston's BFF/Lola (Filipino for grandma). We thank God for her in our prayers each night because of all the work she puts into helping us with our little babies while we're at work and school all day. She loves and cares for her grand babies like her own babies, and provides the number one care to them. We are so, so grateful for this woman and her love and sacrifice for her family.

Philippines, 2015

There are so many other women as well who continue to inspire me on a daily basis at work, school, church, etc. My heart is especially full for these women in my life. I'm grateful for the beautiful ways my moms have contributed to my journey--for I'd be lost without them. Admittedly, there have been so many times in my life that I have missed these women so much that my heart ached and cried for them. I'm so grateful for advancements in technology and ease for communication, so we can always share our thoughts and continue our forever friendship. It takes a village to raise a child and I'm glad I have women of great strength, humor, faith, kindness, family, adventure, and simplicity as part of my village. Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Back (Monoskiing) on the Slopes

I know we're gearing up for summer, and I'm excited for all the fun stuff to do with our little family, but a little part of me is really going to miss winter and the beautiful snow. Let's be real though, I'm going to miss mono skiing the most. As some of you know, I've gotten back into adaptive snow sports through Wasatch Adaptive Sports (WAS), and my life has become exponentially more thrilling! It's been so much fun to reflect on this past season.

I remember driving up to Snowbird to monoski for the first time. It was honestly a bittersweet feeling for me to get up on a snowy mountain again and not strap on my boots, but get strapped into a monoski. I was afraid because snow is hard enough to navigate with use of your legs, so a crash seemed eminent for someone who had absolutely no use of their legs like me...and how would I get back up then? However, my instructors put me at ease and patiently taught me the basics of the monoski, amidst picking me up as I fell each time I didn’t start my turns quick enough. They were super fun and so encouraging. From that lesson, I was hooked and went back every Friday, sometimes even Saturdays, too, so I could learn to spend more time skiing than falling. There’s no greater feeling than breathing in the fresh winter air and flying freely down the mountains again. It brought back the freedom and exhilaration I've missed for so long. I love skiing so very much.
Ski lessons with Peter has been some the most amazing and uplifting experiences.
The A-Team. My instructor turned ski bud, Alex.
My husband and I are incredibly grateful we have had this opportunity to do sports with our number one supporters, WAS, at no cost, especially as we are struggling to get through graduate school and care for our little family. We hope one day, we’ll be able to share our love of winter with our children and build wonderful memories together. I foresee many slopes to shred down in our future. I mean, since there are SO MANY beautiful mountains in Utah calling our names, we might as well enjoy them all right?

With a rigorous and stressful schedule, having a healthy outlet through WAS has been the greatest blessing for me. I feel physically and mentally stronger and more prepared to take on the responsibilities I hold. Being active makes me so much happier and excited about life. Life is more complete as I challenge myself and thrive. I look forward to pushing myself and having fun with awesome people every week. Because of WAS, I love winter again. I’m so grateful for this wonderful program that enriches so many lives by boosting up confidence and independence. I try to share this joy every chance I get (so I'm doing it here!). I love helping people enjoy adaptive sports, and realize that despite the challenges life throws at us, the possibilities are endless. Now matter who you are and what circumstances you are in, this life is to be enjoyed, so we must get back up [on the slopes] and live! Check out some footage on my Insta @martina_huntington
My greatest supporter and love, AJ.

(P.S. I haven't packed up my gear yet. I'm still holding out hope that we'll be skiing through to the Fourth of July!)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Service Heals

I was recently asked to speak at an event for the BYU Center for Service and Learning. I was so thrilled for this opportunity as this center really came to define my time as a student. I can say without hesitation it made my college experience richer, and I don't know if I would be the person I am today without the experiences I had through my time serving.

Below is the talk I gave at the event. While I do share my story (and those of you who are long time readers will be familiar with that, if not, check out my complete story here), it also delves into one of my earliest successes as a new paraplegic: finding out I could serve others.

Eight years ago, I was involved in a snowboarding accident that left me paralyzed from the waist down. As you can imagine, it was a huge transition that forced me to think about my life, what my purpose was, and what I was to do next. There were many things to think about, but one thing I knew was that my Heavenly Father loved me and that He would lead the way. After months of learning as much as I could to live life in a wheelchair, I left the hospital, unsure of what was ahead. Life as I knew it had changed so much. I struggled with needing help in so many aspects of my life and having to navigate an inaccessible world for someone in a wheelchair. Admittedly, despair began to overwhelm me.

A blessing came in the opportunity to serve. I remember a school program needed some volunteers to paint rooms for a family who had a child with a disability, so I signed up. It wasn't until we arrived that we realized the house was three stories high and had two flights of stairs (I totally didn’t think to check--rookie mistake!). One of the other volunteers so kindly carried me up the stairs, and I was so grateful. I was stationed in a room with other volunteers and got to work. Words cannot express how happy I was to be able use my arms--something I still had use of--to serve and to work alongside such wonderful people. I realized from that experience that I could still make a difference in someone else’s life, in my capacity. That was my purpose. I echo the words of Deiter F. Uchtdorf when he said of service that I discovered [my] own life and [my] own happiness. Especially when prospects seemed dim and challenges were overwhelming, focusing on my abilities and how I could use them to help others were the best things I could do.

My sweet sis and me on a volunteer trip to build homes in Battambang, Cambodia, 2010.
Service, no matter how big or small, brings so much healing, happiness, and hope. It sure has in my life and that of my family. I know we are here on this earth to serve one another, and to remind each other that our Heavenly Father loves us. I know our purpose goes beyond ourselves, and focusing on serving others will allow us find ourselves. I'm so glad to be able to share service experiences with my family and friends as we grow closer together from it. Service brings true happiness.
If you're looking for opportunities to serve, I just found out about this new site, Just Serve, that helps connect people with service opportunities in their community. Just so you know, I'm not affiliated with this site, I just love it! How do you find ways to serve in your community?