ImagePeople in the crowd in Lake Placid, New York were cheering, crying, staring in utter disbelief.  It wasn’t supposed to happen.  But it did.  “It may be the single most indelible moment in sports history, said Sports Illustrated, “one that sent the entire nation into frenzy”.  As the final ten seconds ticked away, Al Michaels, one of the sportscasters covering the game, shouted “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

February 22, 1980. I remember it well; I was eleven years old, sitting with my family watching the USA beat Russia in the Winter Olympics.  Everyone in America was an ice hockey fan that day.  Everyone was united.  A group of young men had pulled off the impossible.  Going into that game they were the underdogs, but the final score was 4-3, and the U.S. ice hockey team would go on to beat Finland a few days later to capture the gold.

The team was made up of mostly college students, and the coach, Herb Brooks, thought at the beginning that a bronze medal might be within their reach.  Therefore, he coached hard, and after countless grueling practices and mammoth mental preparation, they did what nobody expected.

The journey those players took from going from college ice hockey players to Olympic gold medalists took about twelve months.  What a difference a year makes.

Walt Disney also had a dream.  He wanted to build a place where children and their parents could have fun together.  He envisioned princesses, flying elephants, castles, waterfalls, and rides.  He saw a “magical park” where people could go to relax with their families.  He called it Disney Land.  He spent time looking for the perfect location, and World War II put his plans on hold.  But he never gave up.

In the design phase, he was met with many questions.  How do you make wild animals believable when they are not real?  How do create five different lands in one space?  How can you possibly construct a land for the future when nobody can know what that will be like?   He turned to talented set designers and those in the movie business for the answers.  When he didn’t feel like the ideas that he has in his head were being accurately understood, he drew up the plans himself.

Construction started on July 21, 1954, and opening day was July 18, 1955.  People worked around the clock to finish on time.  How long did it take from breaking ground at Disney Land to the opening day when 6000 people attended?  362 days.  What a difference a year makes.

Why does the timeline of those two events hold such significance for me?  I know firsthand that amazing things can happen in a year.  I started this blog on July 6, 2012.

In the beginning, I didn’t know what to expect.  The tagline is “a journey to a better me,” but I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.  I wanted to share my thoughts and ideas with others while learning and growing in the process myself. And that has come to pass.  I wanted to explore my writing and my beliefs and have a clearer picture of the things that are important to me.

I started out fairly timid, only writing about things that I considered safe.  I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers nor have people disagree with what I felt passionate about.  I was so scared of revealing too much information that I kept my blog anonymously until a few months ago.  So when I began, I was careful, only touching on the small stuff.  Things nobody could really argue, only scratching the surface of what really mattered.

One of my first posts was about what I thought the difference was between a “caregiver” and a “caretaker” and conveying my aggravation when I wasn’t treated well by medical personnel.

I moved on slowly…

Defining the word “handicapped” and explaining why I consider that word to be so incredibly offensive was the next step.

My favorite quote was worth mentioning, as well as why a five-year-old child whose name I never knew will always be one of my heroes.

I recounted that hugs are less awkward and more meaningful when the ones that I am hugging are down on their knees.

But there was more.

Thinking back to falling out of my wheelchair in front of everyone at my college graduation made me realize that one event can change your perspective on many others.

I shared the story of the spectacular guy who is my pastor, the experiences I share with several friends, and described the circumstances of the one and only time I have ever asked a guy for a date.

And then I dug deeper.

Fears and frustrations came pouring out of me as I looked more closely within.  From the recesses deep inside came my thoughts about some disability issues that had made national headlines as well as the ones closest to my heart.  Issues of my faith and my gratitude did cartwheels in my head, and then eventually flowed onto a page.  Expressing how not being able to drive gets old and the new experience of hiring male caregivers was a release for me.

Baby steps and huge leaps have been equally important parts of the past year.  Understanding dawned as I realized that my experiences as Ms. Wheelchair Kansas and an “almost” Paralympic athlete have helped to shape who I am.

As this blog became a safe place in my world, and I started to share things that are much more “real” to me.

Would I take a pill that would “cure” me of my disability?  The answer to that question can be complicated, but it comes down to this.  I would not take the pill if it only gave me the ability to walk.  However, if it could take away my psychiatric diagnosis, I would be there in a heartbeat.  I took a risk when I explained how my psychiatric disability affects my life much more than my physical one, detailing that getting overwhelmed is something I fight on a consistent basis.  The responses that I got were overwhelmingly positive.

I tried my best to relate how wheelchair ballroom dance does so much for my soul that sometimes when I dance I feel like I can fly.

Conversations were chronicled with others in my life that taught me much more about myself.

People and situations that no longer serve me have gotten the boot in the last few months, and these days I have more ability to focus on the desires of my heart instead of the drama in the details.

Phew.  What a difference a year makes.

Courage and confidence aren’t strangers to me anymore, and laughter, even though it is one of my quirks, is a much more common response to what comes up routinely. I’ve also learned along the way that I would much rather be supportive to people in the long term than short tempered with them in the moment.

What’s next?  I am not sure, to be honest, but I will take it one day at a time.  I just joined a boxing club in hopes of getting buff and recently had one of my stories published in the latest edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

And I will keep writing my blog.  Because writing helps me to figure it all out.  It’s a way to process the pain and journal the joy and take note of all the messiness and miracles that occur in between.

If you are not a regular reader, my request is that you check back in a year.

As the 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team and Walt Disney can tell you, the possibilities are potentially limitless!

What a difference a year makes…