Monday, June 27, 2011

Lost Notes From Spain - My last day.

I've reached my last day in Spain. I am ready to come home. Whatever my reasons for coming here, I am leaving with a sense of contentment and of completion.

I didn't realize how bad it was. Before I left I was... Pain. I couldn't stop hurting and I didn't know why. I didn't even fully recognize that I was suffering. But I was sitting on the train yesterday and I did notice something; the absence of that pain. It was if it had manifest itself as this coiled copper ball of energy, electrically snapping at the bit with my silent anguish. But this tightly wound expression of what I had been living with daily was no longer inside me, no longer sapping my strength and personality.

I glanced at the table in front of me - as the sun streamed in, the lanscape shooting past while I jostled gently in my seat with the movement of the train - and I saw it there, in the middle of the table, flickering weakly.

I laughed softly to myself, intrigued by the mental image I had conjured, and thought, I think I may just 'forget' you there.

For the rest of that train ride I had a secret smile continuously playing across my lips. I truly felt lighter, and for the first time in many months, years even, I felt genuinely happy; right down to my core.

It took an entire month away. Filled with a hodgepodge mess of confusion, happiness, loneliness and fatigue. I felt fear, moments of peace and discovery, joy, and yet an overwhelming sense of being lost. But somehow I got what I came for - two day's before the end of my trip, cut right to the wire - but I got it. And it has all been worth it. I picked up something new here, something glowing and bright, and I think I'll place it where that pain used to be, tucked up safely inside, and take it home with me.

It is time to go home.

Madrid, Spain.

Lost Notes From Spain - set to reflection

The sun is hot, pouring down. I lay languidly amidst the rays, soaking it in. Granada. I whisper softly to myself. España.

I've been fortunate on this trip to meet a myriad of amazing people. Goofs, free spirits, lost souls, the rule bound and people simply set to discover. I love this. The continual catch and release of personal experience; the gossamer touch of individual perspective.

Today I lay on the balcony of a friend I may have made for life. A distant sister soul found thousands of miles from home. She studies quietly on the other side of the sunny balcony, a comfortable silence easily achieved.

I am set to reflection. Why do we travel? To find ourselves, find beauty.. love.. Why do we do what we do? Travel, work, play.. on a continual quest for fulfillment, gladness, gratification, peace, pleasure, repletion, satisfaction, serenity... A thesaurus of aspiration. We crave an abstinence from confusion and discontent. Like a game of hide and seek we smuggle ourselves away from dissatisfaction. However we chose to do so.

I find through world travel a constant wonderment at the highlighted flood of desire and need. Here it is heightened. Brightened. I watch people needing to discover, to experience, to find themselves. I am them, too.

I have it inked into my skin. Right below the scar on the back of my neck that symbolizes my brush with death. Life.

Granada, Spain.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

El Perro y el Hippy

My breath was coming out in short pumps and gasps. One foot in front of the other, I limped and wobbled my way, bound and determined.

Just think, Kristina, I breathily whispered to myself. Think what you'll be able to say. You walked 4 hours in the Alhambra and climbed a freaking mountain in one day. With, Kristina, I continued to murmur to myself, with a spinal cord injury. Just think.. just imagine what the photo's could look like. You can beat this sunset. You can get there in time.. Push.

I absently swung my Canon 50D camera around to a more comfortable position and continued my personal cheerleading, You can do this...

Hearing a voice clear I looked up from my focused stare down with my wayward feet and suddenly realized my motivational whispering wasn't quite as inaudible as I imagined it to be. People were looking, peering at me curiously. 'Loco touristica.' and a shake of the head.

I giggled silently and continued panting my way up the extensive stretch of long steps that pass for streets in the Albayzin quarter of Granada, Spain. Set on a mountainside the walkways are wide and meant only for foot traffic. Gradual steps press upwards relentlessly to the height of the hills. Tourist style tea houses, shops, and tapa's bars line the beginning of your climb, but eventually melt away to houses and local places to eat or drink. Beautiful, and completely charming, but, I'll admit, a touch challenging for a woman with gait, stability, and fatigue issues.

Still, I pressed on stubbornly.

Incredibly, more than once during my strenuous ascent, I was stopped by a concerned citizen. 'Tu es bien?', Are you okay?

I love the Spanish!

Seeing my labored breathing and awkward gate I was often stopped to see if I was all right. One gentleman even took my arm and walked me for a ways. After letting me go he sagely advised me the best way to reach the top was to dance my way, and with a flourish and a bow, which left me grinning from ear to ear, he actually danced his way back down the street of steps.

I love this place.

Caught unaware and distracted with my determined walk and chance encounters, the end was suddenly in sight, or rather, ear shot. The rhythmic pulse of distant djembe drums throbbed in the air, invisibly tugging me on. Practically bursting out of the end of a closely walled walkway I saw the edge of the square I had been so obstinate about reaching. Glancing up at the sky I grinned happily. The sun had not yet set. I made it.

Almost laughing I awkwardly climbed the last few steps and entered the square, lit brilliantly in the late sunlight. Dancing, singing and lounging people were lit afire by the last vestiges of the sun. I entered a hippy heaven, complete with an abundance of puppies and pooches running free and playing with each other and their owners. Soaking it in I looked peacefully to my left, and saw the gentle slope of the city leading to a view of the Alhambra on another hill of its own. The massive palace constructed during the mid 14th century by the Moorish rulers of old glowed majestically in the dying light. Drawing my gaze back to the square my senses were assaulted by the gypsy-like celebration that happened every night. Poi spinners, jugglers, guitarists, percussionists and a surprising number of canines all joined the evening and shared their voice, their talent, their moment, with each other. This was just life here for them.

Idly I wondered if other locals turned their nose up at this congregation of clearly new age mentality. Within walking distance (my walking distance!) there was another section of the city with wide boulevards and expensive shops. The contrast and closeness of these wildly different mentalities tickled at my curiosity. But I wanted to live in the here and now, so letting that thought slip innocuously back into the recesses of my mind - unimportant in comparison to my need to experience what I'd worked so hard to see - I swung my camera up, and began to photograph. Some noticed, some didn't. A few felt the rush of having an audience and immediately began showing off. I didn't mind.

Eventually I let my lens drop and just breathed. I wasn't photographing very well and my battery was dying. Distracted and quite fatigued from my long day I ached to simply exist in this one moment, this physical manifestation of the reason I travel. This was an experience so simple yet so heart warming in it's newness and easy beauty that peace and contentment coursed through my tired limbs. So I sat, with a goofy contended grin on my face, and bathed it all in.

You made it, Kristina. I smiled gently to myself. You knew you could.

And so I did.

Granada, Spain.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Poison of Text-based Messaging

I am no saint. I text. Though mainly I do it because everyone else does. You can't force someone to meet with you, or pick up the phone. But I hate it. I really do. And hate is a strong word I passionately apply to my feelings towards this abhorrent phenomenon of communication.

I want to write a paper on how our reliance on texting is creating a psychological rift in our social demeanors. It's the same epidemic that preservatives in our food have caused. Because the problem isn’t clear and obvious it is slowly ruining our psyche like those preservatives have ruined our gastrointestinal systems. One day we woke up and realized that the reason we all have such problems with our stomachs is because we've been slowly poisoning ourselves; just as we'll realize one strong reason why we have such issues communicating with each other is because we've slowly trained ourselves out of human contact and relations.

I think we're letting the importance of physically present communication fall by the wayside. "But I'm at work." "But I just have something quick to say." "But it's just easier." These are convenient excuses, but I believe, simply blinders that help us ignore the quiet killer. Patches of 'quick and easy' versus 'quality and health'. It's the McDonalds cheeseburger of communication. We've been moving steadfast into the realm of realizing how bad and unhealthy that kind of food is for our bodies. We need to recognize what unhealthy communication is doing to our minds and our emotional connections.

I watched a study that researchers made on infants. This study was actually about the linguistic learning curve in humans, and how it dramatically decreases after only a few short years. It also discusses a critical learning point between 8 and 10 months wherein an infant will learn specific sounds related to their particular language, and after that period the infant is no longer able to process the distinctions in other language’s sounds that are different to it's own.

What I found interesting, though, and as relates to the current issue, is that during this study researchers decided to see if it would make a difference if the child would learn equally as well from having a human teacher, as compared to a television, or simple auditory stimulation.

The children learned absolutely nothing from the television or recordings. It required human contact and interaction for them to acquire the skills.

No, we are not infants. But I believe that this highlights the importance of verbal, visual, and physical contact. It is ingrained in our psyche. We need this contact; straight from the instincts of birth.

I have been back from my trip to Europe for only 2 weeks and I already feel a serious decline in my state of happiness. I keep finding myself wishing I were there, chatting with people over breakfast, having coffee with new friends, going to dinner with people. And therein lay the obvious connection. Now that I am in Vancouver my main form of communication is back to text based messaging. It's just too difficult to get a hold of my friends and too easy to text. My physical contact with people has declined 10 fold, and so has my level of joy.

I'm sick and tired of eating McCrappy text messages. I honestly believe it's an epidemic of our human connectivity and that this is directly tied in to our level of happiness. I believe a strong reason for the general malaise many of us feel is directly linked with our addiction to text based messaging. I know from personal experience that if I am upset about something and ‘talk it out’ through text, I am left distinctly less satisfied than if I were to have a verbal or physical conversation. And there have been one too many instances in the past years as texting became more and more common, of a long drawn out text miscommunication, (who am I kidding; fight), that upset me to no end, only to be resolved and deflated within minutes on the phone or conversation in person. And more often than not, even if the argument was still worked out over text, that lingering itch of dissatisfaction would linger.

For the most part, we are social creatures. We crave, desire, and need social acceptance. Our basic psychology demands communication between each other. But, like eating McDonalds instead of a healthy meal, we are poisoning ourselves. Sure, we may not always be able to eat perfectly, and likewise communicate healthy, but we should put in a sincere and motivated effort to achieve the highest level of health. Physically, psychologically, and emotionally.

Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies -
Image 1 pulled from:
Image 2 pulled from:

**I also realize a large reason we text as much as we do, is because it is cheaper than minutes on the phone. I feel this should change. This world is driven by money, and in a tight economy such as we have now, every penny counts. I believe if using minutes to call someone were cheaper than texting, it could make a huge difference.***

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I realized with such clarity and solidarity today, that I am changing. So simple, but epiphanies tend to be. I desire different things, derive pleasure in different places.

This trip has been a strange experience. It hasn't been nearly as magical as I had expected. Inspiration has remained stubbornly out of my reach. It occurred to be me today as I sat and sipped a cafe con baileys - as yet another small but perfectly annoying event destroyed my sense of peace, leaving in it's wake a sense of lonliness, despair, and fatigue - that I am on the wrong path. I am a circle piece trying to cram myself into a square hole. I am malleable, though, and so with effort I can squish myself in there, but it's uncomfortable here. I am in constant pain. I don't belong. I am chasing my past.

I realize now that the lack of inspiration, the absence of 'magic', is of my own making. My own undoing. My own shattered voice trying to sing songs I don't know how to sing. I am wearing the broken glasses of my past, silently harboring the pain and trudging around lost, weary, and half blind; wearing the weight of my history.

Today I take those glasses off. I am sending all my energy out into the world asking for help, for courage, for strength to leave them off.

I must move forward. I will not forget my past, as if wiping my slate clean in order to start anew. It's not possible. It is written in celestial ink on my soul. Instead I'll review my past, read my books of history - and finish them where possible - until the story is no longer held in my present. Until the weight is gone because I can truly recognize, understand, and accept that though I may have once been that person, I am no longer her. We learn from our past, but live in the present. I'll write it out, speak it out, let it out, so it no longer fills me, but drains out into the cleansing wind. My history will be written on the walls of my soul, but, I myself, will be open and free.. and present.

Like the songs I used to write, let out, and finish.

The voice of my soul, singing to let go.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

tips for beginners

Day 1 - and I am alone at last!

So far? Fantastic. I move at my own pace, I breathe to my own rhythm, and I do what I want. If there's one thing I can suggest to travelers, it's to make sure you try traveling alone. There is nothing like it. People speak of traveling to find themselves, and this is the surest way to do it. I love it. I ache for it.

Also, honestly, I love the free walking tours. Unless you're already well educated on the history of your destination, or just don't give two hoots, swallow down the it's 'muy touristca' pride and take one of these little segways into the past. I find that taking one of these strolls through the city really opens the doors on the reality of any given city. Sure, wander. God, yes, just wander and get lost. See what you discover. But a little tour will add three dimensional depth to your experience. Also, these tours are often conducted by fellow travelers who are looking to make a little money to support their passion. And I always feel good slipping them a tip to help them do what they love.

And never be afraid to talk to people. There can be some bad apples and sour grapes but there are also fruits beyond imagining. Tastes you've never conceived of. Either that or just a good story!



04.28.11 - Malaga, Spain.

magic ignition

Writers block. Stop and twist. Take a sip. Lost in beer rings and simple things. I take a glance to my left and my eyes linger. Is it the simplicity of travel? Magic ignition. Lights from fire a thousand years old cast wicked sparkles in starstruck expression. Tacit belief in something so brief. Am I living? What I've struggled for. Romance in our breathing, and here I am still thinking in fantasy. A thousand years - a thousand miles - can't change a simple thought. Lips moist, the drink tracing thoughts, cool down my throat. Hm. I think this one will stay unfulfilled. But my minds eye is full. So deliciously full.

04.28.11 - Malaga, Spain.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Snorry McSnorrerson

ahhhhh... snorry mc gooberson is in my room. A creepy old german guy in tighty whities is snoring up a storm. Faaaantastic.

I don't think my earplugs are gonna hold a candle against this fellers bonfire. BRUTAL.

Creepy? I say this because earlier today as I'm sipping on my drink in the hostel bar he saddles up next to me at the bar and - inconspicuously? I think not - presses his knee into mine. Rest assured, there was plenty of room, and this was not an over-reaction to a squishy situation. Oh, no. I'm then thrust into a conversation I don't particularily want to be in - nor can understand very well due to his thick accent and liquored up brain power - but I politely oblige, as long as I can handle it. The problem is that persistantly pervasive knee, yes, but also in his enduring need to lean in to me as he speaks. Sure, you're thinking, he's leaning in, creepy old guy, straying knee, whatever.. he's lookin for a cheap thrill. But his breath.. oh heavens his breath.. smelled a little bit like he'd spent some time praying to the porcelain gods. And every word he speaks has me envisioning chunky bits flying from his mouth.


This is not exactly condusive to productive conversation, let me tell you. I finally politely excuse myself and move along my merry way.

So I enter my room this evening to a symphony of saw worthy snores and a giggling roomate waving his hands in the air like a conductor. Lo and behold, it's my ol' german pal, scantily clad in the tightest pair of underwear a young woman never wants to see a man of that age sporting, doing the best impression of a hacksaw I've ever heard.

Joy, squared.

I've gotten kind of close with a couple of the hostel workers, though, and I'm hoping to maybe sleep elsewhere? It's funny.. it's an 8 bed dorm and this man's going to wake up to a completely empty room. My conductor roomate is paying for his stay by working at the hostel, and is trying to butter up his way out of dodge, too.

Evacuate!!! - I'm thinking - Creepy old snoring german on the loose!

Hmm.. I think I'm SOL on the new room frontier. Farknutters.. joy, cubed? I hope he's only staying one night.. ooh man. Not sure I can go into the fourth dimension of joy with this fella.

Alright, here I go.. earplugs at the ready. Goodnight and sweet dreams! Haha.. riiight.


Rainy Malaga

It's raining here in Malaga.. and so I am bored.

Unless you're a big museum buff Malaga doesn't boast an exceptional amount to do. Except for beaches and it's Alcazar and the adjoining Gibralfaro - which, to be perfectly honest, don't quite rival the one in Sevilla, and I'm told the one in Granada either - there's only a few things to do to occupy your time. So I've spent my days getting tipsy and enjoying tapas after tapas and sprawling myself spread eagle on the beach. No complaints here, really. But, this means, on a rainy Andalucian day like today, I'm tapping my toes in my hostel and thinking about my next glass of cerveza.

Sitting here bored in the hostel I'm set to reminicing. I've met some exceptional people so far. An old spanish painter who asked me to call him Pepe stikes out the most in me. A perfect example of Spanish charm and friendliness. He saw me limping along in the Alcazar and pulled me over to him. Blasting away at me in spanish and handling the leaves of the bush beside him he finally caught on to the blank expression of incomprehension on my face and switched to a charmingly accented english.

"Smell!" he says. Sure enough, the bush had a lovely herbal-like fragrance. Trust an artist to catch on to something like that. We laughed and chatted for a moment, and then he moved on to start his painting. I wandered around for a while and saw him again later chatting up another stranger. I love that sort of friendliness. There was nothing but happiness in his eyes, and a joy in talking with those who enjoyed life as well.

After this I move on to Granada. And I'm seriously excited. I keep hearing such wonderful things.. I can't wait to experience them for myself.

Cheers, world!

~the wandering quad

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Injury - Beauty Blooms Above the Swamp

Beauty Blooms Above the Swamp

*This is a shorter story of my accident, as compared to my second post in this blog, and how I received my spinal cord injury*

I found myself in midsummer, and in my arsenal I had a car, a lovely new N license, and the perfect sunny weekend I could spend up in Kelowna with my Mom. I was my first long distance drive and I was rearin' and ready to go.

Cruisin’ down the highway in my 'new' little 89 hatchback, I breathed easy and listened to some amazing music at a volume much too loud, (what else is new), with the windows down and the breeze beautiful. I made it to Hope, called my Mom for one of our little check-ups, ate a chocolate bar and checked my simple route for the fiftieth time. Getting back on the road, I slid easily through the Coquihalla tollbooths and enjoyed my first taste of a 110km speed limit.

Somewhere on the connector near Kelowna, something happened. I still don't know how - I must have zoned out, or possibly fell asleep? - but abruptly I'm no longer in my lane; I'm driving on the left shoulder of the road. White plastic pillars are smacking the front of my car, a beating panicked heartbeat. Suddenly the legal limit seems much too fast.

I want to get back on the road.. how did I get here? Smack, Smack, Smack.

I pull right.. Too hard. I'm new at this. I fly across the road.

'Oh god, this is happening.'

There's a jolt and the car is stopped. All I'm aware of is that my head is on the driver’s seat, my left arm curled up around me, and there's a seatbelt tight around my neck cutting off my breath. I try to move, to get up, but only my left arm does this strange little twitch. It then occurs to me I don't know where my body is...

I've broken my neck.

The next thing I knew I was being flown to Vancouver General Hospital with my Mother by my side. I was put into surgery that night after a myriad of MRI’s and other tests. I don’t remember much, but I do remember seeing the tear stricken and seriously frightened faces of my family and friends leaning over me. I saw my father's ragged face and red eyes, my step-mother telling me she loved me, and my friends, shaky and wild eyed.

I came out of surgery with a brand new and expensive neck - my C4 and C5 vertebrae fused together with some fancy new titanium hardware and a small piece of my hip. This, and a chilling diagnoses of an almost completely paralyzed body with a 10% chance of walking again. Safe to say we were all very frightened.

VGH was my home for the next five weeks, four of which I always had someone with me. Someone from my family, or a friend, was near 24/7. They worked in shifts to ensure I was never alone. Honestly, I can attribute a massive amount of my success to their determination and love for me. Any time I tried to get down on myself and lose my resolve or drive to succeed, they were right there with a healthy dose of, "Don't you dare!" and kept me encouraged and motivated. A body doesn't heal well if it's stressed, and we truly are more in control of our bodies than we give ourselves credit for. But we need to try to heal. If not, we will accomplish nothing. I believe this. I am proof of this.

Over the following weeks I met some amazing doctors, therapists and nurses - some of whom helped me more than they know – and gradually arms began to move, my legs began to move, and every new movement, however slight, was a cause for bountiful tears of excitement and hope.

I have what’s called an ‘incomplete’ spinal cord injury. This means my spinal cord was only pinched and bruised, not severed. It’s for this reason that I recovered at all and am not still laying motionless on that distasteful hospital bed. A complete injury reveals itself in someone who has absolutely no sensation or movement below the level of their break. An incomplete injury, however, is challenging in a different way: the damage is mysterious, and so the recovery is unpredictable. There can be a lot of hope, and painfully, no results.

For me, amazingly enough, my results were nothing short of phenomenal.

I then spent seven weeks at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. Two weeks into my stay I was given the all clear, and I stood up for the first time.

I cannot tell you the feeling. After having been bed and chair-ridden for weeks, and after all the fear and worry that the 90% chance I wouldn't walk would be the winning side of the ratio; I stood. And seeing the world from my height - such a simple thing - just standing at my height and looking around, I couldn't stop crying. In fact, I had pretty much the entire physio gym in tears; in celebration, in envy, and in an inspired resolve to get where I was. They talk of miracles... The word doesn't hold the weight of how incredible I felt.

From then on my therapists had a rough time keeping me in my chair. I had, and still do have, difficulty pacing myself to avoid the fatigue issues that plague spinal cord injured patients. My body has to work harder than the average bear in order to do the same amount of work as a healthy person. But I couldn't - and still can't - stop. At first they tried to have me use walking aids, but I threw them off as annoyances, my desire to heal outweighing their need for safety. And what did I say to them with a mischievous little wink? “Don’t worry, I’ll be running in no time. Imagine trying to stop me, then.”

So here I am today, almost three years later. I do still have a limp and (okay, okay), I’m unable to run, (for now!), but all things considered, I’m beyond lucky. It was hard work. Incredibly hard. But with belief, passion, and determination, (and a whole lot of love from family and friends), I blew that 10% chance out of the water. I am convinced that if you don’t push yourself past your limits, you’ll never know where those limits truly lie. And I can guarantee you they are further than you may realize. Again, I am proof of this.

My rehabilitation wasn’t all candy and popcorn, though. Complete functionality didn’t magically come back and I didn’t hop, skip and sing my way back to my old life. I had to give up dreams, and make new ones. I had to struggle and compromise: scream, kick, yell at, and finally give in to some things. But I learned incredible lessons. I learned that there is so much more strength in me than I realized. That when you give up dreams the world doesn’t come crashing down. Instead, new possibilities emerge. Fantastic people you’d never meet are found, new passions and desires emerge from the woodwork of your life, and an inner strength that may have been hidden, but was always there, blossoms right before your eyes. Beauty does bloom above the swamp.

Believe in yourself. Push yourself. Be amazed by yourself.

But please, for heavens sake.. don’t break your neck figuring it out! It’s in all of us. It's in you. Right now.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Semana Santa en Sevilla

A rhythmic thrum pulls me from my sleep. My eyes flutter open and there is a thick scent of incense coating the air. I half sit up, still groggy and confused from an afternoon powernap. I don't understand what is going on.

There it is again, a deep bassy percussive boom, rhythmically pulsing through the air. My eyes widen. Semana Santa. I bolt out of bed, my heart thudding with the beat. I was told I had missed all the processions.

Racing to the window I am surrounded by the thick musk of the ceremonial incense. I can't see anything, though.. just what looks like a normal crowd down in the street. But I still hear the drums pulse somewhere to my left, not far off. And even though I am not particularily religious, I feel it in deep. There is something inexpressible about this.

I whip out my camera and race downstairs. I must see this. Everywhere there is all at once crackling excitement and a deep solemnity. The juxtaposition of emotion entrances me. Or maybe it is the incense. Or the continuous thrumming of the drums. I am enthralled.

Then I see, coming down the small road right where I am staying, there is a crowd moving towards me. I see the tips of the pointed green Semana Santa hats gathered at the end of the walkway, swaying slightly in their slow movement. I realize quickly they're coming directly my way. I am on the parade route. I look up and see Kristin's head poking out our hostel window off the miniature balcony of our second story room. I can't believe my good fortune. It is the perfect view.

I dash back upstairs, (or, at least as fast as my gimpy body can take me. I'm limping, lurching, laughing and forcing my body to climb the steps), and burst into our room. My friends immediately move out of the way of the window, (how wonderful they are), and there it is. The procession slowly and stately moving up the street beneath me. A brass marching band strikes up, a blaring trumpet tenure that pulls at the heart in a strange way.

I start to click my shutter, awkwardly adjusting the settings as I amaturely express one of passions.

It is beautiful, exciting, solemn, wonderous.

I can't stop photographing this. The drums continue to pulse deep, hitting my heartbeat.

I am in Sevilla during Semana Santa.

I can't believe this.

Sevilla, Spain - 04.23.11

Memories from Atocha

I was in Madrid so briefly last time the only thing I remember was this train station. So I sit here chancing brief glimpses through the pupil of my memory. This escalator.. that ticket booth.. that garbage pail in which I frantically unloaded my.. ahem.. Amsterdam merchandise before moving through baggage check.. you know.. routine stuff :p Oh the memories.

Madrid, Spain - 04.22.11

The streets of Madrid

Madrid, Espana. The streets were quiet this morning, another peaceful awakening for those native to Madrid. The week long semana santa, (easter), holiday affording them a sleepy start to the day. Shops in the trendy Chueca district opened lazily, if at all. Looking up the sky was cloudy and gray - this, I am told by a local, is an anomaly for Madrid this time of year - I suppose we brought a little of Vancouver with us.

We drifted back to the hotel for a seista, (spain is perfect for me, and my need for constant midday naps. It's like they designed life specifically around my injured needs), and then left for a fantastic evening otu with a wonderful man named Gonzales, (Gon-thal-es). Being a business contact of one of my travel friends he was happy to drive us around his city, our own personal tour guide. We stopped for a peek at the Palace and it's cathedral, and then made our way to stand breifly in the direct geographical center of Spain. As a tourist, this was pretty nifty. As an artist, I was bored.

By this time the streets were full and bustling, the celebrators of Semana Santa out in full force. Occasionally someone dressed in the iconic garb; tall pointed hats with only small eyeholes through which to see - not unlike those seen on people in the kkk, but, worn for completely different reasons - could be seen dotting the crowd.

We moved through, dancing with the crowd until we reached Plaza Mayor. Rich in history this large and open square has always been a hub for activity. In the past, bullfights, trials, executions, markets and theatre all presented themselves there. Today it stands bordered by tapas bars and restaurants, their patios spilling out into the square. Here street performers make their living, and I sat romanced by the feeling and indulged in a glass of sangria while listening to Gonzales' stories. Here the artist in me sang.

Soon we tipsily giggled our way to Botin, reputed to be the oldest restaurant in the world. Guided by the forsight of our gracious host, our reservation directed us to the most beautiful section of the time rich building. Down "in the cave" as Gonzales put it, we sat in wonder. It wasn't a cave, so much as a time capsule built of old brick stones and thick rich wooden beaming. Artistically placed lanterns and plates adorned the siimple brick walls, and the romantic lighting lent a relaxed and comfortable feel to our dinner.

We laughed over wine and gazpacho, (which is, by the way, an incredibly fantastic cold soup that I definitely invite you to try, if you ever chose to eat there..) and tripped over the language barrier with the good grace of alcohol and high spirits.

1735. This place has been open as an inn and eatery since 1735. I am still reeling from the thought. My mind drifted as I sat there letting the indulgant red wine settle onto my tastebuds, to how many souls have been in that very spot, enjoying their own Spanish cuisine and company.

History, delicious food and glorious company.. Salud. To experiencing life.

Madrid, Spain - 04.21.11

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

new york - business class

It feels so good to feel human again. I'm finally in Spain. It's been three years in the making and I'm finally here. After a red eye flight - during which I did sleep, but might as well have been doing jumping jacks the whole time for all the rest I felt from it - I made it into Madrid bleary eyed and brain dead. What little Spanish I do know remained drowned in the empty wine glasses left astrewn in the new york hotels.

What a trip New York was. Ritzy hotels, rooftop patios, bottle service., I have never been treated so good. I had Alecia Key's "new york" on repeat in my head the entire time. I don't think I saw a single morning without the hazey fog of the remnants of a drunken night dewing my eyes. I was treated to dinner, drinks, passion and fury. It was chaos and hedonism, Anarchy of pleasure. New york - business class.

After the intense hustle and bustle of those crowded streets, I welcome the relative calm of Spainish Madrid. There is a quiet lingering hush whispering in my ears from the absence of the car horn music. I already feel a calm spreading through my nerves, a slow tidal movement. It is why I love Spain. There is magic here, I swear. An instant feeling of home. Of welcome. It's such a complete contradiction from the cacaphonous frenzy of NY.

I feel beautiful here. I can't wait for morning.

-Madrid, Spain. 10pm - 04.20.11

Horn melody. Cacaphony of metropolitan music. Jazz in the streets as we dance - glare - laugh - ..move.. Sway in time to the rhythm of the city. The lights strobe us into action. We glitter as the diamonds that bring life to this. The soul and truth of vitality in detonation. Reviving and surviving. Returning and learning. Lost in the swirling. I pulse my fingers to this percussion, slowing down the night. It is a good night, for this. Hedonism sings a siren lullaby and I am entranced by the fantasy. The alternate reality. For the moment, I am New York.

NY, 04.17.11

I seem to attract those that can't love but for a night. A moment in their history. I am their exotic release from reality. My eyelashes stray to the side, glassy eyed. Doll faced in this empty place. I am not your toy. Do not play with me.

NY, 04.11

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I feel it every time

I feel it every time. The engine starts with a rush of noise, and a burning excitement blushes radiantly from my heart. It spreads through my body - a pebble in my pond. My eyes sparkle as we bounce and bob down the tarmac, and a permasmile advertising the thrill pulsing in me is plastered on my face. I don't know what it is exactly that blossoms this excitement.. but just sitting there, feeling the plane hum and vibrate.. drifting forward.. every cell in my body knows one thing.. I'm going somewhere. Somewhere new.

The lights flicker off sparking another flutter of anticipation. We've reached our runway. It's time.

Then it happens.. The engine swells in a crescendo of wild new vigor and we're pressed bodily back into our seats from the sudden burst of power surging us forward. My smile is sunlight.

We're rushing ahead, now. A brief press of pressure sinks us down into our seats as the plane launches off, and then an almost giddy weightlessness lifts us calmly before we settle into the flight. Angling up and away I peer wild eyed and endorphine ridden out the window, down at the gloriousness of my city, glowing beautifully as it fades away into the glittering pre-dawn light.

The tingling sensation subsides. A sense of normalcy returns. Drinks are served and chatter fills the cabin. Routine.

But the quirk of a smile to my lips remains.

I am going somewhere. Somewhere new.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Married to Murphy

Goooood grief.

So many things have gone wrong during March and now going into April, it's unreal. Murphy and his laws have been snuggled up to me like a love-sick puppy with no manners. I've come dangerously close to canceling my trip multiple times but somehow, by some indeterminable grace, I've managed to avoid such a catastrophe by the skin of my teeth.

I could not need this trip more. And, almost masochistically, I'm even more inspired to travel than ever. With all of it's inevitable trials and tribulations things are bound to go wrong when you travel. But this is part of the excitement, the adventure, and the discovery of ones own ability to conquer anything. This is life, non? We battle our demons and whatever the world can throw at us like the champions we are. And travel, well that just proves how courageous and capable we can be. And as icing and sprinkles on the cake - because we love our icing - it throws in priceless adventures t'boot.

So here I am. Just a mere week from lift off, dodging the feces that's being hurled at the fan with the unearthed finesse of a seasoned pro. My sleeves are rolled up, the bull horns of stubborness are on, and I'm armed with ink and paper.

Come on universe, bring it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ah, Sevilla. Where my soul is.

*In May of 2008, I was moving about on a taste-test of Europe. This was my experience in Sevilla, Spain.

After an incredibly horrible train ride in.. I was worried that I wasn't going to enjoy Sevilla, Spain at all. I left the train station and was greeted with fairly bland and boring city streets. This was the incredible and beautiful Sevilla people had been boasting about? This was... blah.

I trudged to my hostel, dropped my things on the floor, sat down, and cried my heart out. After having been traipsing around Europe for a full three weeks and a train ride that was supposed to be a fairly simple overnight sleeper turned into a 48 hour disaster - where I lost time, shoes, and a bit of my sanity - I was exhausted, grouchy, and completely and utterly disappointed. I felt ready to give up.

Mustering up all that was left of my remaining reserves, I forced myself up and out. I couldn't afford to waste time, even if the city was a complete letdown.

5 minutes into the tiny, winding, fresh flower covered and cobble stoned streets, I knew I was wrong. It turns out my assessment was very premature. Only minutes away from my hostel was romance incarnate. Every turn led to something even more beautiful. Small cramped, but cozy walkways between buildings opened up into gorgeous courtyards with fountains, beautiful orange trees and flowers, and tiny little cafes and restaurants everywhere.

I didn't get to do too many touristy things, on account of there not being enough time, but I have to say, the Alcázares Reales de Sevilla is the most beautiful place I've laid my eyes on. It is a palace of Sevilla and an incredible specimen at that. Lovely rooms, graceful pillars and Moorish architecture whispers history lessons to the curious mind. Beautiful yes, but in my humble opinion, not nearly as phenomenal as what awaits you on the other side of those old stones: The palace gardens. They're massive, with many different sections and styles. So many flowers and fruits and fountains and birds that your heart aches. I won't even try to do describing this garden justice. I don't think even my camera could. But I was walking through paradise. I think I left a small part of my soul there. I will have to go back to get that some day.

I then went to see the Cathedral. Again, lovely, but I have to admit, once you've seen one massive religious building.... you've kind of seen them all. As I cringe and await the gasps of horror. No, I don't mean to do the structure injustice. It was definitely a wonderfully gorgeous building, in all it's massiveness. But what really got my heart fluttering was when I climbed up the tower, up a winding ramp studded with little alcoves of history and anticipatory glimpses of a view out small barred windows.. up to the top.. where you got to see Sevilla from the sky. Just beautiful.

My coup de gras, though, my absolute favourite thing thus far: the Flamenco. I went both nights I was in the city, and am still completely, utterly, amazed by it. I knew from the start I wanted to experience this tradition of southern Spain and upon questioning my hostel receptionist I was told I had two options for enjoying the Andalucian entertainment. There was a proper show you could see for €30, or you could go for free at a local bar. I chose to go to the bar, and have absolutely no regrets. Like I said, I went twice, and would have gone more had there been any way I could.

Again, I feel like I can do no justice by trying to put this into words; but I will try.

The place was packed, people squeezing tightly onto the benches and seats, trying to find anywhere to sit. The air was smokey and filled with the cacophony of laughter and conversation. It was hot and sweaty, with everyone laughing and jostling and cramming close to get drinks at the bar. Those drinks were cheap and plentiful, and the people joyous and friendly.

Then the performers stepped out onto this small stage. A man raised his arms and shouted authoritatively over the crowd, hushing us into silence... Anticipation.

Good grief. The pulse, the song, the passion. The voice of the singers and the grace and power of the woman. This dance, the rhythm.... I am meant for it. I think my jaw hit the floor and stayed there. Another piece of my soul flung out onto the stage. The first night the small performance space contained only three people. A guitarist, a singer/clapper, and a dancer. Her movements were fierce and passionate with feet slamming onto the wooden floor with captivating control. The singer's voice was strong and confident, his clapping a rhythmic pulse that seemed to make your very heart beat in time. And the guitarists music lulled you blissfully into this complete experience. Those three - just them, alone on stage - I thought were phenomenal. Then the second night gifted me with a flautist as well. Again. I was awestruck. His lilting music complimented the performance perfectly. The musicality of the whole situation, the complete ease and talent of these artists, it left me in dumbfounded awe.

That night the singer even tried to pull me up on stage and get me to sing with them! No, before I get your hopes up too high, I didn't. A cold I was suffering through had my voice sounding like a dead wet dog. But, admittedly, I thoroughly enjoyed the attention. Afterwards - because the second night I smartly sat myself right beside the stage - I was even able to snap a few photo's with the group. (What? I AM a tourist!). The vibe in the bar was electric. I have never been happier.

On my last night in that magical city, I walked down beside the river. Clouds from a light refreshing rain were clearing and I watched a peaceful and beautiful sunset. I wandered the winding streets one last time, sat at a small restaurant and relaxed as I ate some Spanish paella, (a rice dish to delight the senses). Then feeling fully contented I went back to my room to rest up for my early train ride to Barcelona.

Ah, Sevilla. This is where my soul is. No, you definitely did not disappoint.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The spice of life - and a salmon filet recipe

I've had this nagging interest in cooking since I was a little girl. To be perfectly frank, my parent's didn't really put anything awe inspiring on the table. Not that I blame them. In a busy dual job household with three kids and our entire lives to orchestrate, I think the last thing they were feeling at the end of the day was inspired. Not to say they didn't feed us well - we were instilled from the start with a nutritionally balanced ideal of what was right for our bodies - but you wouldn't often find anything fancier than baked chicken, (okay, okay.. shake'n'baked), with potatoes and steamed veggies for dinner.

This always left me with a hankering for more. I started out small, by inventing - or so I felt - my own recipe for spaghetti sauce. Simple smart ingredients with a healthy dose of fresh garlic, chunky vegetables, italian spices, and chipotle hot sauce. I remember when I sat my dad down for him to try it; I was inwardly cringing at the possibility that my taste buds, and only my taste buds, could possibly enjoy it.

He dropped his fork - and his jaw - looked at me plaintively and asked, "Where did you learn to cook like this!?"

After that I gobbled up, (pardon the pun), any recipe people would throw at me and strove to put my own twist on it or use the idea's to make something wholly new. I'm not a huge chef or foodie, nor do I cook fantastic meals every night. But when I get inspired, and get into the kitchen.. I feel like magic ignites.

Over the years I've had many influences that have developed my tastes, ideas, and my thoughts on food. Ex-lovers, good friends, google and the food network ;p All combining together to create the mini-chef and food lover that I am. I've switched to all organic foods, now, and when I do eat meat I try to let only oceanwise seafood, and organic/free range, (properly fed and no antibiotics!), meats onto my plates. I find this has not only made my karma feel good, but, truthfully, my entire body.

Part of the reason I write this here in my travel blog is because, arguably, one of the greatest aspects of traveling is trying new foods. I've grown incredibly fond of simply wandering through fresh food markets, trying new dishes, expanding my culinary horizons, and enjoying what the world has to offer my taste buds.

Tonight, this is what I created. I hope you all enjoy. This recipe was inspired by a really good friend. Thank you, Camille. I still make this.

"Pan seared wild salmon with spicy peppers and tomato on brown rice. Topped with a simple home made chunky guac."

I have no idea how to write out a recipe, especially since I tend to wing it with the amounts, but here goes.


*Oceanwise Wild Salmon Filet, skin on (salt and peppered)

Rice - Wild, Brown, Long grain white.. whatever your fancy. I chose brown :)

Organic Veggies:
Red, Orange and/or Yellow Bell Pepper - Chopped in approx 1 inch chunks
Fresh Tomato - Chunky like the peppers
Red onion - Yup, you guessed it, like the peppers
Garlic - Chopped
Hot pepper - Diced - I used half a small orange habanero.. but you can decide how brave you are, or not :p

1 large ripe Avacado - (you want it to feel soft to the touch, but not majorly mushy)
Garlic - Diced, abt a clove (I like it garlic-y. Sometimes REAL garlic-y. But I'm a bit of a nutterbutter)
Red onion - Diced, two teaspoons? (it'll be a lil more than your garlic but careful not to overpower your guac with awesomeness)
Tomato - abt half a fresh one, chopped
Lime or Lemon juice - a squirt or two (preferably fresh, but if you hurtin' for citrus I just use a bit of reg lemon juice from the bottle. Shhhhh.. dun tell.)
Olive Oil (extra virgin) - I just pour a small glop in.
Cilantro - Chopped (or flat leaf parsley as an alternative) - ummm... I'ma go with.. a couple table spoons? Depends on how much avacado/tomato you've got goin on....
Salt and Pepper - to taste

The guac can be pre-made, or if you're efficient while you cook you can always just throw it together in between stirs and flips and such :) Basically you chop/mush up your avacado, stir in everything else, and try not to eat it all before dinner's ready.

Start by putting your rice on, and cook as needed depending on which rice is your preference. I baked my salmon a little bit while I was cooking to ensure its readiness, but it was also still a little frozen. (This is what happens when you decide to cook last minute at 9pm and the only food you have is chillin out in your freezer.)

In a frypan heat a little oil, (extra virgin olive, for me), on medium heat. Sautee your bell peppers, garlic, onions, and hot pepper until soft but still a little crisp. Lower the heat and stir in tomato's, just enough to heat them through. Remember to season your food. Salt and maybe pepper - if you dare to spice it up even more- to taste. Remove from heat and place into a covered bowl.

In the same pan add a little more oil if needed, and on high heat lay in your salmon filet. (You may want to google how to properly do this.. I totally wong (winged?) just threw it in and hoped for the best... I'm still alive though, and it tasted pretty freakin good.. so I guess I did it right. But I don't want to be responsible for bad meat out there!) So, yes, pan fry that fishy sucker. Please don't kill yourself with food poisoning. I wouldn't like that.

By this time your rice is hopefully done, your guac is a go, and you're ready to plate this tasty beast.

Lay down a bed of rice, top with your spicy veggie mixture. Place your salmon filet on top, and add a generous dollop of guac. Lastly sprinkle with a bit of extra cilantro or flat leaf parsley because not only does it taste good, it looks good too.

Shablam. Awesome healthy dinner that tastes devine!

My only regret this evening is that I didn't pull out my good cam to photograph the nummy result. Ah well, next time.

Cheers! To good eating!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The story of my accident

I've had some people express some interest in my accident. So, I thought I'd write out the story of what happened. Here's a step back into my past..


It's June 27th 2008, hot and sunny, and a gorgeous three day weekend that I plan on spending up in Kelowna with my Mom.

I'd only had my license for a couple months, and this was my first long distance drive. Cruisin’ down the highway in my 'new' cute little 89 Honda Civic hatchback I breathed easy and listened to some amazing music at a volume much too loud - what else is new - with the windows down and the breeze beautiful. I made it to Hope, called my mom for one of our little check-ups, ate a chocolate bar and checked my simple route for the 50th time. Getting back on the road I slid easily through the Coquihalla toll booths and enjoyed my first taste of the 110 speed limit.

Somewhere on the connector, just outside Westbank near Kelowna, something happened. I still don't know how, I must have zoned out - or possibly fell asleep? - but abruptly I'm no longer in my lane; I'm driving on the left shoulder of the road. White plastic pillars are smacking the front of my car and flying over top of it in a panicked beating heart beat. Suddenly the legal limit seems much too fast.

I want to get back on the road.. how did I get here? Smack, Smack, Smack.

I pull right.. Too hard. I'm new at this. I fly across the road.

'Oh shit... this is happening.'

There's a jolt and the car is stopped. All I'm aware of is that my head is on the driver’s seat, my left arm curled up around me only twitching when I try to move it, and there's a seatbelt tight around my neck. I can't breathe.

I'm croaking for help. I'm realizing I can't move to relieve the pressure on my neck. I'm getting scared. I'm praying someone saw and will stop. I can't breathe. Someone had to have seen, please let someone have seen. Someone will stop. Someone will help me breathe.

I hear noises behind me. Oh, thank god. Someone's here. I'm still croaking and they catch on. I hear panicked shuffling away and I don't know how long I wait. I am patient; they'll help me breathe, they have to. I wait. I am patient. Suddenly they're back and I feel a tugging at my neck from their attack on the belt that holds me prisoner. My head drops about an inch to the seat. They cut the seatbelt. I can breathe. Relief.

I try to move, to get up, but only my left arm does that strange little twitch. It then occurs to me I don't know where my body is...

I've broken my neck.

I was taken to Kelowna General where they stabilized me overnight. It was all a blur to me; questions, tubes, and white panelled roofing interspersed with annoying florescent lights. I remember being as patient as possible, reminding myself over and over that if I just do exactly as I'm told, I'll be all right. I must have been in shock. I was surprisingly unfrightened.

I tried to get them to call my Mom, reciting the phone number easily - a number I never remember and have always speed dialed - like I'd been punching the numbers in for years. Apparently under duress, I have a fabulous phone book in my head. I should add, since then, I can't remember my Mothers phone number. I found out later that they never even called my Mom; she has a 778 area code from when she lived in Vancouver, and just carried it over to Kelowna with her when she moved. The nurse, whom I can only assume is a native 250ian, thought I was delirious and gave them the wrong one. Ironic, considering for the first time I had it completely right. I'm still peeved with that nurse; she could have at least tried it.

My mom did make it to the hospital though. She and Tony, my common-law step-father, were nervous at my lack of check-up calls and hopped in the car to drive down the highway. My mom didn’t see, thank goodness, or she may have well flipped right out, but Tony noticed my car being pulled out of the ditch. He casually swings a u-turn and suggests checking the hospital, “just in case”. Unfortunately, he was right.

The next day I was flown to Vancouver General Hospital with my mom by my side and was in surgery that night after a myriad of MRI’s and other tests. I don’t remember much, but I do remember arguing against them taking out my nose stud (of all things) but eventually relenting after the thought of it being magnetically ripped from my little nose hit home through the druggy fog. And I remember seeing the tear stricken and seriously frightened faces of family and friends leaning over me so I could see them. Any movement for me was impossible. My only view - for what felt like eons - was the ceiling, unless someone shimmied close and leaned over my bed to look down at me. I saw my father's ragged face and red eyes, my step-mother telling me she loved me, my friends shaky and wide eyed. Oddly, I don't remember being frightened myself. I am so lucky, though. I have the most amazing support system. I already knew I was loved, but I could not be more lucky, in such a horrible situation, to find out just how much they cared. Beauty blooms above the swamp.

I came out of surgery with a brand new and expensive neck - my C4 and C5 vertebrae fused together with some fancy new titanium hardware and a piece of my hip - and a chilling diagnoses of an almost completely paralyzed body with a 10% chance of walking again. Safe to say everyone surrounding me, and now including me, was very frightened.

VGH was my home for the next 5 weeks, 4 of which I always had someone with me. Either my Mom, Dad, Step-Mom, or friend were near, 24/7. My parents and friends worked in shifts with me to ensure I was never alone. Honestly, I can attribute a massive amount of my success to their determination and love for me. Any time I tried to get down on myself, lose my resolve or drive to succeed, they were right there with a healthy dose of, "Don't you dare!", and kept me encouraged and motivated. A body doesn't heal well if it's stressed. And we truly are more in control of our bodies than we give credit for. If we don't try to heal, we won't. Or at least, we won't come near as close to what we can achieve if we do. I believe this. I am proof of this.

Over the following weeks I met some amazing doctors, physio's and nurses, - some of whom helped me more than I think they know - and slowly (or so it seemed to me, in reality my recovery was astoundingly fast when compared to most spinal injuries) started recovering. My arms began to move, my legs began to move. Every new movement, however slight, was a cause for bountiful tears of excitement and hope.

I remember when one of my fingers moved for the first time; this is huge, you see, for quadriplegics with a C4/C5 injury don’t often regain fine motor function. It is a huge step in recovery, and a suggestion of even more to come.

It was the middle finger on my right hand. Marie - my best friend, my soul twin - was filing my nails for me..

She’s hard at work gently sliding the emery board across my middle fingernail, chatting about who knows what the way girls do, when suddenly my finger twitches. My heart catches in my chest and I barely get out an audible, “Marie!”.

She continues filing away not noticing the movement; it’s normal for someone’s hand to move when you're fiddling with their fingers, right?

“Marie!” I’m a little louder this time. She looks up at me.


I hesitate; it could have been my imagination. I wanted my fingers to move so badly. “Did my finger move?”

She's still filing, not yet comprehending what I'm talking about. “Huh?”

“Did my middle finger move?”

Now she get's it. She freezes solid. She looks like a cat, body tense and eyes wide, poised to pounce, waiting for a movement. The air is quiet. The other people in the room - family and friends - stop in the sudden thick tension. We wait, but I am motionless. My heart drops.

She slides the file across my nail again. My finger jumps.

Our faces snap to each other in shock, eyes wide with instant tears.

“Wait, let me see if I can do it myself,” I say with fierce determination, turning my attention to my hand, staring down my finger like a cowboy gunman. Alright you lily livered piece of cow dung... TWITCH.

It moved.

I cried.

Marie cried.

Everyone was crying.

I did it, I moved it.

To me that was a major mark of my incredible recovery. I'd been recovering well so far, no doubt, but this started to exceed average expectation for my sort of injury. Everything was gradually returning. My left side was much slower, and scared the hell out me for doing it, but it continued along at a stately pace, following my right side’s lead. One of my nurses called me a show off. My surgeon was amazed by me. One week he gave me the joyous news after assessing my strength and current recovery that he was now sure I would walk, though ‘a little oddly’. I of course said that no, I wanted to walk normally. He gave me that look of ‘don’t get your hopes up’, but I ignored him. Just one short week later I shocked him. I was recovering so fast. After his assessment he laughed happily and said “You know, you may just walk normally.”

And what do I say? “So I will run, right?”

I always want what I can't have, what can I say? And there was no discouraging look that time. But he, of course, could make no promises. Still, I was getting stronger daily. After a little “Kill Bill” showdown with my toes, they began to wiggle. All the fingers on my right side came to life, one by one. My left digit’s were taking their time, but joining suit with agonizing slowness. They do still move more awkwardly, however.

The worst damage to my spinal cord affects my left side. Even now, my left hand is not very strong ad has persistant numbness; my ring and pinkie finger are not paying attention to the whole healing thing the rest of my body is doing, and give me grief. As it stands, I still can’t play guitar, which is a continuous aching pull on my soul. It’s something I try hard to ignore though; this is a continuous journey, and the possibilities are endless.

I have what’s called an ‘incomplete’ spinal cord injury. This means my spinal cord was only pinched and bruised, but not severed. It’s for this reason that I’m recovering at all, and not still laying motionless on that distasteful hospital bed. A complete injury reveals itself in someone who has absolutely no sensation or movement below the level of their break. Incomplete injuries are trying things, though, in their own way. The damage is mysterious, and so the recovery is unpredictable. There are many people out there who have the same level of injury as I do, but are not healing nearly as well as me. There can be a lot of hope, and painfully, no results.

For me, amazingly enough, my results have been incredible.

I then spent 7 weeks at GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre. 2 weeks into my stay there I was cleared by my doctors that it was safe for me to be weight bearing. I had also fractured my pelvis, and so, regardless of my ability, I was not allowed to even try and put weight on my legs. But by this time my recovery had already been nothing less than phenomenal.

At the 7 week mark after my accident, I stood up for the first time.

I cannot tell you the feeling. After having been bed and chair ridden for 7 weeks, after all the fear and worry that the 90% chance I wouldn't walk would be the winning side of the ratio; I stood. And seeing the world from my height - such a simple thing - just standing at my height and looking around; I couldn't stop crying. In fact, I had pretty much the entire physio gym in tears; in celebration, in envy, and in inspired greed to get where I was. They talk of miracles... The word doesn't hold the weight of how incredible I felt.

They were just going to let me stand the first day so as to gradually ease me into being on my feet again. But I begged. I felt so good. And they relented and allowed me to move to the walking bars.

I started walking right away.

Small, tentative, and weak… but steps. I was taking steps.

Suddenly my world opened up. Independence was possible again, travel was possible again, LIFE was possible again.

From then on my physio's had a hard time keeping me out of my chair. I had, and still do have, a hard time pacing myself to avoid the fatigue issues that plague spinal cord injured patients. My body has to work harder than the average bear in order to do the same amount of work as a healthy person. But I couldn't, I can't, stop. They kept trying to have me use walking aids but I threw them off as annoyances. My determination outweighing their need for safety. And I did have my fair share of drops to the ground. I even had the oh so cliche and surprisingly funny "I've fallen and I can't get up!" moment. I had to yelp and scream for the nurse to come in and help me back up. But I couldn't stop giggling. I thought it was hilarious. Just a, "woops! Can't do that, yet!", moment. ..Yet. And I got there.

So here I am today, almost three years later. I still have numbness in my offending left hand fingers, and altered sensation to one extent or another everywhere. I have chronic nerve pain, most of which is down my left side, though I've found the right drug mix to keep it mostly under control. I do still have a limp and am unable to run, and have bowel, bladder, and sexual health function issues. But all things considered, I’m f*cking lucky.

I’m still determined to find a way to run, to go up the Grouse Grind or hike the Chief, to wear high heels, (and walk in them), and closest to my soul: to play my guitar, with which I will bear my soul and write music. And one goal I've had this whole time, is  to travel to Spain and learn Spanish.... and write about my journeys..

That one... is now happening.

I love my friends and family, without them there’s no way I’d have healed this way, so phenomenally. When I came close to losing it, falling down a well of self pity and hatred, they whipped me back up so fast I was dizzy with relief. Love. It’s good for the soul, and incredible for healing. The nurses at VGH were wonderful to me, and helped incredibly with their support and caring. They saved my life. My surgeons, I could not be more grateful to. Dr. Boyd and his team seem to have patched up this lucky neck phenomenally well. And to that mystery man, (I never saw him or heard his name), who saved my life on the highway that day... thank you.

It was hard at first to share what had happened to me. At VGH, I allowed very few to see me, or even know of my condition. I asked that everyone keep it quiet. I wouldn’t say I was ashamed, but I was frightened.

I’m back now, a bionic woman, and gearing up to full throttle.

Published on

2/25/11 10:50 AM
Pacific Daylight Time

Thursday, February 24, 2011

And so it begins

Since I came back from my first taste of solo travel in 2008, I've been planning on travelling again, and writing about my adventures. Immediately upon my return I started seeking employment in the service industry so I could learn the versatile and travel savvy working skills that many poor, but determined, travelers rely on. If I could serve in my home city of Vancouver, BC, I could serve anywhere. And I thought it would be a fantastic way to save up money for the next plane ticket I already saw in my hand.

Unfortunately life had other plans for me. In June of 2008, about three weeks after my return from my eye opening romp across the world - where I didn't just re-light my wanderlust flame, I ignited a passion for photography, writing, and experiencing life - I got into a very serious car accident. I found myself in the hospital with a broken neck and an almost completely paralyzedbody. My surgeon told me and my family I had only a 10% chance of ever walking again.

Safe to say, I didn't end up working in the fast paced hustle and bustle of the restaurant biz. And I certainly wouldn't be traveling any time soon, if ever.

I began a rigorous journey towards recovery. With the help of a phenomenal groupof people supporting me I worked towards willing my body to move. Nurses, therapists, and so very importantly, my friends and family kept my spirits high and my courage strong. Somehow, and by some grace and fortune I feel I'll never be able to repay, my body began healing. Fast, and shockingly well.

Here I am today, coming up to three years later, and I am walking. I am moving. I am dreaming. And I will be traveling.

I am still technically a quadriplegic, but likely one of the luckiest survivors out there with an incredible amount of function returned to me. I am now finally beginning my plan to complete the dream that started three years ago. I am enrolled in photography school, I am writing..

And I just purchased my flight to New York and Spain.

Mid April... it begins.

Artistic photography by Kristina Shelden
Santorini, Greece.
Wreck Beach, Vancouver, Canada