Things I Would Never Do (dot dot dot) or So I Thought!

Since being in school for the last year and a half my life has been very routine and in all honesty not very exciting. I dread being asked the question "What's new with you?". Nothing, absolutely nothing. Every minute of every day is accounted for. Studying for school is like a full time job when you carry a full load of classes. I started to think back to what my life was like before I went back to school and I missed the exciting life I used to live. This brings me to my life now, well, my life for the past 5 months since this year began. I have officially declared 2010 to be the year of "Things I Would Never Do...Or so I thought!" A friend of mine told me that since 2010 is the Year of the Tiger it makes perfect sense that I would get out side of the boring box I have been living in and attack some new experiences. The moment the words "Oh, I would never do that" escape my mouth I am pretty much locked in to doing it. Naturally I wouldn't do something that goes against my standards so there is a limit to what I experience this year.

Here are a few of the things that I have done that I never thought I would do.

1.  I dropped in on a skateboard ramp using my wheelchair not to mention a lot of body pads. 

Life Rolls On had an event called "They Will Skate Again" in Venice Beach. In my head I recalled my friend Aaron Fotheringham taking many falls doing this activity so I wasn't thrilled about giving it a try. I have had many shoulder and neck problems in the past few years and it reminds me that I am not invincible as I once was. I hugged the side of the ramp and let others go ahead of me. Finally, it was now of never. I dropped in and came out of it unscathed. I had done it. So why not do it again? And I did. At the end of the day received the "going balls out" award. With some encouragement from Aaron I did my best version of a back hand plant with some assistance of course. I mean, C'mon! Let's not get carried away.

Life Rolls On had an event called "They Will Skate Again" in Venice Beach. In my head I recalled my friend Aaron Fotheringham taking many falls doing this activity so I wasn't thrilled about giving it a try. I have had many shoulder and neck problems in the past few years and it reminds me that I am not invincible as I once was. I hugged the side of the ramp and let others go ahead of me. Finally, it was now of never. I dropped in and came out of it unscathed. I had done it. So why not do it again? And I did. At the end of the day received the "going balls out" award. With some encouragement from Aaron I did my best version of a back hand plant with some assistance of course. I mean, C'mon! Let's not get carried away.



2.  I starred in and sang a solo in my Stake's musical "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". 

When an announcement was made in my ward that the Stake was putting on a musical my mom jokingly said with a laugh in her voice "Briana, you should go audition!" I started to respond with "Oh, I would nev..." and then as you know I was locked in. What the heck! I'll do it! I can carry a tune. Let's be honest, I'm not cutting any records and no one is offering me a record deal so trust me, I know my place. Singing is not something I am known for. My sister Kristen was given that talent in the family and she carries that torch high. I am more of a back up singer. Well, I auditioned and the director thought I had a strong voice and a charming personality. Some may say that she was at least half right. She offered me a starring role as the narrator for the musical that is on stage the entire time reading from a journal. After I accepted the part she then proceeded to say "Oh, by the way, you will be singing a solo." My jaw dropped. That wasn't part of the original deal. But once again it's 2010; how could I say no? The event was great and it turned out to be a lot of fun. I think I would consider doing it again one day.

When an announcement was made in my ward that the Stake was putting on a musical my mom jokingly said with a laugh in her voice "Briana, you should go audition!" I started to respond with "Oh, I would nev..." and then as you know I was locked in. What the heck! I'll do it! I can carry a tune. Let's be honest, I'm not cutting any records and no one is offering me a record deal so trust me, I know my place. Singing is not something I am known for. My sister Kristen was given that talent in the family and she carries that torch high. I am more of a back up singer. Well, I auditioned and the director thought I had a strong voice and a charming personality. Some may say that she was at least half right. She offered me a starring role as the narrator for the musical that is on stage the entire time reading from a journal. After I accepted the part she then proceeded to say "Oh, by the way, you will be singing a solo." My jaw dropped. That wasn't part of the original deal. But once again it's 2010; how could I say no? The event was great and it turned out to be a lot of fun. I think I would consider doing it again one day.

3. I was called to teach Sunday School in my family ward. When I first moved back into the family ward that I grew up in the executive secretary asked me what type of calling I would like or not like. He mentioned that he had an "in" with the Bishopric and could put a good word in for me. I laughed and said "Yeah right! I am not telling you anything. From my lips to God's ears." He laughed and said "O.K. then, what type of calling would you be uncomfortable with having?" I still wouldn't give it up. I may not have told him but the calling "Sunday School Teacher" flashed over and over in my mind like a Las Vegas billboard. Wouldn't you know a few weeks later I was called into the Bishop's office and was offered a calling to teach Gospel Essentials a Sunday School class for investigators, new converts and missionaries. A word to the wise, if you don't want something don't even think it. I do have to say, I love my calling and every week (yes, I teach every week) it is as if the teacher becomes the student. I have learned so much more about the Gospel Principles and I feel so blessed to have this calling.

4.  I asked a guy out on a date. I am an old fashion kind of girl. I feel it is the man's job to court a girl and request her company to escort him somewhere. Well, I am not getting any younger and I can see the crows feet getting deeper everyday. I knew it was time to take matters into my own hands if I ever want to call myself a "Mrs." one day. I met a guy while shopping in a store I had never been in before. He approached me, flirted with me, spent a good amount of time talking to me and seemed generally interested. He gave me his card and asked me to contact him. A couple days later I did just that. I invited him to come with me and some friends to dinner and watch the Newport Beach boat parade. To my surprise, his response was pretty much thanks but no thanks. I guess I have short circuit somewhere because I must have received his signals all wrong. Have I just been out of the game too long?

5.  I submitted my drawing into my school's art show and it was chosen to be featured in the show. 

This semester I enrolled in a Basic Drawing class. I really have no artistic talent. The first day of class my teacher said "If you try really hard chances are you will get a B." I immediately got nervous. This is supposed to be Basic Drawing. I don't know what I am doing and for years I was told "an A for Effort." Clearly it was going to take a lot more than effort to impress this teacher. The drawings started off weak but gradually improved. When I learned to draw and shade with charcoal I found my niche. I did a drawing of "Nefertiti". I had no intention of entering it in the art show but when the teacher said she will give extra credit to each student that does I submitted it regardless if it was chosen to be in the show or not. There were over 500 entries and only about 100 were chosen. I was floored when I saw my name on the list of those selected for the show. I soon found out that I was the only one in my class that made it. I knew I couldn't celebrate in their presence but I couldn't help but smile a lot during class. My drawing didn't win any awards but I was very proud to be amongst some amazing artists.

This semester I enrolled in a Basic Drawing class. I really have no artistic talent. The first day of class my teacher said "If you try really hard chances are you will get a B." I immediately got nervous. This is supposed to be Basic Drawing. I don't know what I am doing and for years I was told "an A for Effort." Clearly it was going to take a lot more than effort to impress this teacher. The drawings started off weak but gradually improved. When I learned to draw and shade with charcoal I found my niche. I did a drawing of "Nefertiti". I had no intention of entering it in the art show but when the teacher said she will give extra credit to each student that does I submitted it regardless if it was chosen to be in the show or not. There were over 500 entries and only about 100 were chosen. I was floored when I saw my name on the list of those selected for the show. I soon found out that I was the only one in my class that made it. I knew I couldn't celebrate in their presence but I couldn't help but smile a lot during class. My drawing didn't win any awards but I was very proud to be amongst some amazing artists.


6. I ate a cricket, held a tarantula and let a hissing beetle crawl on my body. One of my classes this semester is Biology of Insects and Spiders. I have been afraid of spiders my entire life thus far. I decided that I didn't want to be fearful of anything especially something as small as a spider. I figured I would take this class to hopefully turn my fear into a fascination. My hat is off to my professor because he did just that. I have become so intrigued by spiders. They truly are amazing creatures and serve so much purpose on this earth. In class we would get extra credit for every mature adult we collected and brought into class still alive. After about 5 weeks of classes and seeing so many spiders brought in by my classmates I thought I better get over this fear and get myself some extra credit. I recruited some help. I told my nieces and nephews that I would pay them a dollar for every spider they found. They found this job very exciting and it kept them occupied for a couple hours every time I would visit. They didn't break the bank with their findings but we sure did have a lot of fun. In class one day someone brought in crickets as a snack for us the students. My professor focused right on me and said "Briana, why don't you start the class off." After getting in the habit of doing things I normally wouldn't do I said "Sure!" With a surprised look on his face I grabbed one and popped it in my mouth and chewed it up. Today I went to the insect fair at the Natural History Museum in LA. After taking a deep breath and with my heart racing I did the following...

This tarantula is an Arizona Blond. We blonds need to stick together.

This tarantula is an Arizona Blond. We blonds need to stick together.

The flash must have startled the beetle because right after this photo was taken the beetle sprinted up my arm and into my hair. I screamed, panicked and then broke out into a sweat. I realized then that I still have some work to do in overcoming this fear of mine. I screamed with the beetle but had it been the tarantula running up my arm and into my hair you would have had to grab the smelling salt and picked me up off the floor.

The flash must have startled the beetle because right after this photo was taken the beetle sprinted up my arm and into my hair. I screamed, panicked and then broke out into a sweat. I realized then that I still have some work to do in overcoming this fear of mine. I screamed with the beetle but had it been the tarantula running up my arm and into my hair you would have had to grab the smelling salt and picked me up off the floor.

Stay tuned for more posts of "Things I Would Never Do (dot dot dot) or So I Thought!" Take a lesson from me...never say never!

 

Wacky Wednesday

I have had a lot of weird things happen to me in my life, but never have I had one day where these weird things were happened back to back throughout the day. 

#1 - It was the Wednesday before Easter and I wanted to put together an Easter basket for a friend of mine. So I went to the 99 cent store to get some goodies. Right when I roll through the door I notice a man standing in line. He stared at me as I rolled past him which is something I am used to being in a wheelchair. What was different about this situation was that I started back at him too. I noticed as I rolled past him that he did not look like most men. In fact he was trying not to look like a man. He had on high heels, silky black fitted cargo capris, a fitted black women's sweater, acrylic nails, held a purse, wore make up and to be honest I had no idea what look he was going for with his hair. I didn't want to be rude and keep staring as I looked away, grabbed my basket and began rolling down the Easter aisle. When I found something that caught my interest I turned to get a better look. As I turned I noticed someone standing beside me so I looked in that direction. To my surprise it was the cross dresser standing about 10 feet away from me. I remembered that he was in line to check out when I arrived so I just figured he forgot something. I moved on down the aisle. I stopped looked over my shoulder and there he was again a little closer staring at me. I moved on around the corner to the next aisle. He followed getting closer and staring at me more intensely. This started to feel very "Silence of the Lambs" to me so I put my basket down on the ground and casually rolled out of the store. I got in my car, locked the door and as I drove away I saw him standing in the doorway of the store staring at me. Very creepy!!!

#2 - Later that same day I had a dance performance at CSULB. After the performance a gentleman in a wheelchair came up to me and began telling me what a fan he was of mine and how he has always wanted to meet me. I was thanking him graciously when he said the words "I actually have you tattooed on my back". I laughed thinking this was a joke. He assured me that it wasn't and was willing to pull his shirt up to show me. Still thinking it was a joke I encouraged him to do so. He couldn't do it by himself so his brother lifted the shirt up to the top of his back. Oh this was no joke at all. 

The only difference on the tattoo was that I was topless. My jaw dropped. He said that I should feel flattered. I told him that I was definitely feeling something. My dance partner said I should take a photo of it. I whispered to her "does this seem like a moment I want to remember?" She laughed. I pulled his shirt down and laughed as I explained to him that when he ages so will this tattoo and those perky boobs won't be so perky anymore. This was definitely a first for me and I hope the very last.

#3 - After the dance performance I had to run an errand at the local K-Mart. I rushed in and got my items and as I was rolling out the door I saw what I assumed was a fairly large homeless woman pushing her shopping cart in front of me and then stopping in front of me blocking my path to get into the parking lot. I was about to squeeze around her when what happened next stopped me right in my tracks. This woman pulled down her pants all the way to her ankles and then peed right in front of me on the sidewalk, right in front of the entrance/exit of the K-Mart. People were walking through the entrance and didn't seem to notice the woman taking a leak or me looking panicked. I kept asking myself "Am I invisible?". She finished, pulled her pants up and went on her merry way. I was still in shock. I couldn't believe what I just witnessed. It brought new meaning to the phrase "when you gotta go, you gotta go". And she did.

You Complete Me

You complete me.” That memorable line from the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire, now holds special meaning for me.

A former Habitat for Humanity volunteer, I hadn’t had the opportunity to help with a build since becoming a paraplegic nearly seven years ago, and I was excited for the chance to participate again.

I arrived at the ABILITY Build site with eagerness, protective goggles and sunscreen. After our safety orientation for the build, which was hosted, in part, by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles, each volunteer was assigned to a crew leader. I got Bethy Davis, a cute, tall, slender, blond girl who could make any tool belt look good. She then chose Mark Goffeney as the third member of our crew. Looking over at him, I noticed right away that he didn’t have arms.

“Aren’t we a pair?” I thought to myself. Right away I knew this was going to be quite the experience: a girl who can’t use her legs, and a guy who has no arms. Unbeknownst to me, however, I was being sized up by Mark at that exact same moment. He was quick to observe that I was a female in a wheelchair. Little did we know then that we would get an immense amount of work accomplished and change a few perspectives along the way.

I was put in charge of measuring and cutting the wood and drywall. Bethy provided me the measurements, and I used a chop saw to cut the long 2X4’s down to size. Mark saw me struggling to hold down the planks, and quickly jumped in to help. “I will pick up the other end and level it for you,” he said. I kept my eye on the wood as I fed it through the saw, all the while wondering how Mark was picking up the slack behind me. After lining up the next 2X4 on the table, I glanced over my shoulder and saw him lift the wood with his foot.

“Of course that’s how he does it,” I thought to myself. It was at that moment that Team Mark, Bethy and Briana-MB2 was in full effect.

Within the first hour, Mark and I were “in the zone” and had gotten a good handle on our tasks. Using one foot, he pulled out the tape measure and, with the other foot, used a pencil to mark the necessary length needed. As he passed the boards to me, I used the chop saw to cut them to his precise measurements. We took great pride in our work, and were pleased when we received the thumbs up from Bethy for our impeccable accuracy.

At one point, I turned to my teammate and said: “Mark, you complete me.” We both burst out laughing, and yet it was true. We were a force to be reckoned with. Neither of us questioned the other’s ability, and we continued to encourage one another with each new task.

After all the sawing was finished, we moved on to drilling. I watched as Mark picked up the drill with one foot and the wood with the other. He lined up the drill with the wood and pulled the trigger with his big toe. He controlled the drill with ease and precision. As he finished each piece, he picked up the wood with his foot and placed it on my lap. I then drilled the screws into the holes he had created. We worked diligently through the morning, until we heard the announcement that lunch was being served, and then went together to wash my hands and his feet.

Mark and I signed our names on a piece of wood after he drilled the holes so we would forever be a part of that house we built.

Mark and I signed our names on a piece of wood after he drilled the holes so we would forever be a part of that house we built.

Our next assignment was to cut dry wall. This took us a little longer to figure out. Because our work area was on a slight slope, I was rolling all over the place—not something I wanted to do with a sharp blade in my hand! We took precautions by re-situating our work area so it would be safer.

After I made a few cuts to score the dry wall, Mark stepped on the seam with his bare foot to snap it along the cut that I had made. As the workday neared its end, Mark was determined to cut a measured piece of dry wall from start to finish. I watched him take the blade between his toes and cut along the measured line. After a few strokes, he once again used his barefoot to break the piece off. Being a former cheerleader, I broke out into a cheer for Mark. We definitely had team spirit!

Mark and I spent the whole day together, and learned a lot about each other. One thing that was apparent from the beginning is that we share a similar sense of humor, which helped fill the day with laughter.

With all the preparation and support I received along the way, I knew I was capable of success. Mark knew he was capable of it, as well. In moments when we would not have been so successful as individuals, working together became our strength. Combining our talents gave us the means to “complete each other” and our jobs.

The Day of Murphy's Law

Laquita tells it better than I do so in her words...

We’ve been out of communications again for the past 5 days. I now have the immense task of making sense of all the events that have occurred since we last were in contact with anyone. To quote myself “with every upside there is a downside”…..the last 3 days we have been solely uphill. To say we’ve been going through extreme’s in no way does it justice. The road and all its perils almost, I’ll reiterate - “almost” - did us in. 

3 days ago, in sweltering heat of 115 degrees, calamity struck in gale force, literally. Our morning ride was abruptly interrupted by 2 flat tires on Briana’s bike. Everyone’s patience was a little thin but we completed the roadside repair and continued on. The bus had gone on ahead along with Jordan. Aaron, Briana and I were riding together. The rain clouds out here are in abundance - in every direction you can see a downpour happening. To our left I was watching a ominous looking cloud formation continuing to gain in size and darkening in color, with the occasional lightening bolt strike. We suddenly began to feel warm air turn to cool and back again - shifting all the while in every direction. Coming from the Midwest, I am familiar with thunderstorm patterns and tornados. Winds began to pick up to dangerous levels and we realized we needed to take cover - there was no way we could outrun the approaching storm on our bikes. 

Cattle are free range out here so there are cattle guards every few miles on the highway. Fortunately, we came across one just in time to take refuge. The 3 of us tucked down in the bar ditch alongside the guard, tornado tails forming and dancing over our heads, realizing we could take a direct hit. The next 45 minutes were spent in calm, knowing there was nothing we could do besides profess our love and gratitude for each other. My son and I have had many soulful, penetrating eye to eye connections over the past 9 years and this one proved possibly the most profound. We simply held on to one another - until the storm passed, leaving us physically unscathed but emotionally a little shaken.

We got back on our bikes, caught up to the bus and rested our minds until we thought the storms were well on there way to other areas. I told Aaron and Jordan to go ahead, I would catch them. This is not what I customarily do, I usually stay right with them - but my instinct wanted to follow the bus for a minute this time. The bus went ahead of me just a little ways and stopped - a gale force had hit the side of the bus with such power it completely uplifted the awning out of the brackets. Arielle was on the side of the road holding onto the awning strap with all her might. I jumped off my bike, the winds battering us at I know 60 to 80 miles per hour. I quickly grabbed bungee cords and went to the top of the bus to attempt to anchor it down, in effort of saving it. All the while, my heart is in my throat with the thought of Aaron and Jordan being on the road with the newly formed storm coming out of nowhere. As well as I bungeed the awning, it was still no match for the wicked winds, set on wreaking havoc. I ditched the idea of trying to save the awning because saving the guys was obviously priority. We drove ahead maybe a few hundred yards when the 20 foot awning holder went over the top of the bus and was dragging on road - could have taken out an oncoming car. We could not go any further. Arielle and I went again on the top of the bus - looking at each other in desperation - not knowing how to handle this over our head situation - the winds continuing to pound - the 20 x 30 foot vinyl awning at this point flapping with abandon, the brackets bending and twisting, threatening to completely thrash the sides of the bus - suddenly adrenaline rushed through me and brought forth a guttural, primal, gorilla chest pounding, howl which placed Arielle into hysterical laughter. This shifted our seemingly inadequate mind frames into a “lets tear this @#$% apart and git-r-done”!! And we man-handled the situation. Right at that time a Native American Indian family drove up and the man yelled up if he could be of any help. I told him my son and a friend were up ahead and could he possibly go to them. Feeling a little less frantic, we successfully dismantled the entire awning frame, leaving it as carnage on the side of the road. 

The Indian family returned to us assuring me of Aaron and Jordan’s safety. They were up ahead at a road side rest area, unharmed. When we reached them, we all simply stared at each other for awhile, words eluding us…..we have consistently ridden these summiting roads now for 7-8 hours a day, humbly, respectfully, but in no way afraid or backing down to their power. We are as the side of the bus states: The Rise Above Tour.