I have a really epic family.
I’m serious when I say that. Each and every one of them is seriously epic, especially considering all we’ve been through together both before and since my injury. My Dad is the go-to fix it man who even prior to me coming home went around our house and measured the door frames to make sure I would fit through in my chair (little did he know now we have to worry about my big head fitting through…). You have all heard about Mom who puts up with way more razzing than any human being should ever have to (but to be honest, I think she secretly enjoys it:D). Then of course there’s my two lovely sisters, sisters I wouldn’t trade for the world and we still get into just as much trouble as we always did.
So when people used to make comments about being “like a family,” all I could do was chuckle to myself. Chuckle and think, “Yea, you probably don’t go to Costco enough to be apart of my family.” Let’s just say I didn’t think I, as a rather boisterous and proud “girl in a wheelchair,” would ever find another group of individuals so inclusive and comforting and open and fun and well, real as those 4 other people I share DNA with.
It’s funny how God puts us into crazy situations that force us to open our minds and challenge our current ways of thinking.
So what was my crazy situation?
Skiing. Downhill and cross country skiing with a bunch of people I had never met in a state I’ve never even visited before. A crazy situation very fondly talked about by people across the country and even around the world, known as the regional Black Hills Ski for Light in Deadwood, South Dakota. As a part of my Ms. Wheelchair America 2015 reign, I was invited to attend and participate in this amazing week filled with laughter, snow, really good food, and I guess a bit of skiing.
Ski for Light is a fascinating organization to say the least. It was founded to teach the basics of cross country skiing to visually impaired participants but has expanded to include individuals with mobility impairments as well as activities like downhill skiing, snow shoeing, and even snowmobile rides. Now I cross country skied once the winter before my injury and I loved it. I have not, however, done any sort of downhill snow-related escapade. So this week was going to be a first in many ways.
When you go to events, regardless of who you are, you never quite know what to expect. You think you have an idea, but you really have no idea until you actually get there. My introduction to Ski for Light began in the Minneapolis Airport where I met another participant from Chicago on his way to the same destination. This very entertaining gentleman had a visual impairment and we got to talking about a cruise he recently went on.
“Sam, I don’t get something and I went and voiced my concerns to that cruise director. I told her I don’t understand how they can charge ME for sight seeing. I mean, seriously, I’m blind!”
Let’s just say from that moment on, I knew it was going to be a pretty great week and I wasn’t disappointed.
I got in a cross country sit-ski on a day when it was at least 65 out and I fell over way more times than I should ever admit. Thankfully I had some very willing and helpful volunteers who were remarkably good at “righting” me (good adaptive skiers can do it themselves). I went downhill skiing which is a completely foreign concept in my mind. I mean, I’m a weirdo who likes work, so letting gravity do it was a strange feeling, but I got a lot better (at going down the bunny hill…). I rode on a snow mobile, gambled for the first time in my life (a whole $5 on the slot machine at 7 in the morning), visited Mount Rushmore and even went out on the arm of Crazy Horse (Check out this website if you don’t know what Crazy Horse is!).
It was meeting so many of the other remarkable participants. It was listening to their life stories and experiences. It was learning about what it’s like to approach the world as an individual with a visual impairment. It was hanging out with some amazing volunteers and board members that put so much into making the week the success it was. It was being welcomed into the “Ski for Light Family” with hugs and hello’s, as if I had been going all my life. It was having my own personal “security detail” who protected me from the endless paparazzi in South Dakota…
I had an amazing week and it was such an honor and a blessing to be able to attend. I think I could spend hours sharing stories and recounting some pretty priceless memories. I’ll hold back though and share a slew of pictures instead, cause they do a pretty great job accomplishing the same task.
Alright, so I know if I don’t share this final thing about the trip I’m gonna get a lot of questions from those who know about it….
When I went to Crazy Horse I got this super epic souvenir from the “blasting crew”-the memorial itself is still a work in progress so they have a crew of individuals responsible for the blasts that sculpt the mountain. It’s a really amazing souvenir and they all even signed it. I was a little concerned about it and we were going to mail it home, but everyone I talked to didn’t think it would be an issue because it’s very obviously a souvenir. It got packed away into a checked bag that was marked with my Mother Dearest’s name. I guess you could say the TSA didn’t think it was that epic of a souvenir….
Whoops. Mom may have gotten taken into questioning while I sat a bit concerned they were gonna take her away in an orange jumpsuit. I guess I just needed to give Rapid City, South Dakota something to remember us by.
Now the real kicker? I STILL haven’t been disowned.
See what I’m saying?
My family is seriously epic.