Sunday, March 23, 2008

On a break

When I first started this blogging thing, the main purpose was to keep friends and family up to date on what I was doing in Mississippi. It was a good thing.

When that adventure ended, I decided to start a new blog since this really amazing online community had sprung up. I've been able to keep in touch with friends who are still on the Gulf Coast and with those who have moved on to new adventures. Plus I've been able to state some things that are on my heart and mind which don't usually surface since I'm not the most talkative person. That has been a good thing.

But this blogging goodness has resulted in some not so good stuff. Lately I've been receiving a few comments on both the Bayou blog and this Selah blog which have been a bit disturbing. I suppose I could limit who can comment by changing the setting so that they require my approval. But even if I do that, these anonymous people can still read what I'm writing and I don't know how I feel about that. Perhaps they're just messing with my head in the same way that some dirty pervs had been on Facebook when they would request to be my friend and send me really crude messages. Later I realized that they were quoting the movie Superbad which has a lot of dirty lines involving the character named Becca.

These blog comments aren't dirty though. They're just disturbing enough to make me want to stop blogging which is what I'm going to do. For now. I'm definitely going to continue reading all the blogs of you cool kids all across the nation because I love to hear what's going on in your life. As for me, I'm going to try and be better about picking up the phone. Email is still good too.

*This blog will still be public for about a week and then I'll restrict access. It was fun while it lasted.

Friday, March 7, 2008


For the past nine weeks I've been volunteering with the National Sports Center for the Disabled up at Winter Park. This program has been one of my greatest sources of joy since arriving back in Colorado. Each Thursday I wake up before the sun and drive two hours up to the mountains wondering what sort of challenge I'll be faced with that day.

For the first few weeks we worked with autistic children who all had varying degrees of the disorder. Some kids were very low functioning, nonverbal and pretty much not at all interested in skiing. Most of that group played in the snow and tried on the ski gear, but never got on the slopes. The other half of the group were high functioning kids, some of whom were verbal. I happened to be matched with an eleven year old boy who never seemed to stop talking, but he was a dear heart and was very enthusiastic about skiing. Most people with autism love their routines and don't like to change it up, so my student skied the exact same run for five weeks in a row. While it became a bit monotonous for me, he absolutely loved it. We gradually accomplished the goals we set at the beginning of the season: to overcome his fear of the chairlift, to work on turning and to pick up the pace and ski just a little bit faster than he started out.

For the rest of the weeks, I've been matched with different students with different issues. On week six I worked with a woman who has MS and is very fortunate to be alive. Thanks to some experimental drug treatments, she has gone from being paralyzed and bedridden to walking and now skiing. She has some balance issues and a huge fear of falling, so we skied very slow that day. It took us about two hours to make it down the run, with one volunteer behind her with tethers attached to her skies and me in front of her skiing backwards to assure her that we wouldn't let her fall. It was a huge accomplishment for her.

On week seven there was some bad weather and rough road conditions preventing half of the students from making it up from Denver, which meant I had a free day of skiing. I felt guilty that I was enjoying the slopes while a bunch of the other volunteers were working with students, but that guilt wore off around noon when the snow began to fall and the slopes were covered in powder.

Week eight was by far the most challenging day of teaching as I was placed with 4 deaf students, all of whom wanted to snowboard. While I've been snowboarding for the past seven years, I haven't taken any clinics to help me know how to teach another person how to snowboard. Then there is the fact that the students were all deaf creating a huge obstacle. We made it through the morning with a little frustration and whole lot of laughter (mostly them laughing at me and my terrible sign language skills), but we all had fun which is the most important thing.

The hearing impaired group left for home at lunchtime and I was assigned to help out another group of snowboarders, this time a group of teenage boys. They all live in a house in Denver which is part of a substance abuse program and "last chance" before being sent to juvenile hall. These boys have some crazy stories. One of them stole a car from a drug dealer, was pursued by police in a high speed chase all the way from Denver to Colorado Springs and ended the chase by rolling the car. By the way, he was only fourteen at the time. All the other boys have committed various offenses, primarily having to do with drugs or stealing. Most of them grew up huffing various substances to get high which has resulted in some developmental disorders. But despite all this, they are really great kids. They just haven't been given the chance to prove themselves. When we're on the slopes they lose their identity of juvenile delinquent, and they become kids on snowboards.

Yesterday was week nine and I was again assigned to work with the teenage boys from the group home. We got them off the bunny hill and managed to help them down a blue run. I can only guess how great this made them feel since none of them are very good at showing emotion. I'm hoping it was the highlight of their week because it certainly was mine.

Next week is the tenth and final week of the program which is bittersweet. I'm going to miss it very much, although it will be nice not having to devote fifty percent of my income to gas money!