Happy birthday to me! Today I turn 33. On one hand it feels as if I’ve lived quite the life and I’ve got quite a few chapters under my belt, but on the other hand it feels as if I’m still writing the preface. But today I thought I’d take a short trip down memory lane and review some of the highlights from the pages thus far.
Chapter 1 – birth. I was born March 1, 1982 at Ford Ord in Monterey, California. My given name is Margaret Alyson Hendleman.
I was very opinionated from the get-go. This, apparently, was a very common pose:
I liked (and still like) pretty much all things active.
I am the only one who has ever out-fished my dad. The big one is mine.
I did a lot of plays in junior high and high school. It took me a bit to realize I wasn’t much of an actor but more preferred the dancing side of things.
I have three great siblings! I loved to swing dance with John (front left), Polka with Tom (back right), and belly dance with Kat.
This is Kat and I at the belly dancing festival.
I was really into it for a few years – this, believe it or not, was me, though I know I look a lot like Kat. Belly dancing gets a bad rep, I think, because of how it’s portrayed in some movies and such, but it’s really very cultural and beautiful. I got rid of lots of dancing things when I got paralyzed, but I kept my belly dancing zills (those mini tambourines you have on your fingers).
I was never too old or too cool to stop and build a snowman.
I got a job in Germany but only went over for 5 days before getting kicked out of the country. This is a story for another day. Suffice it to say that some people make great nannies (and I’m not one of them…). I then interned at Walt Disney World in Orlando where I met some awesome friends and go to go to the parks all the time. I got engaged while here (he’s not in this picture) but ended up breaking it off.
This entrance into the Young Single Adult chapter of my life was a tough one. Kicked out of a foreign county and I began piling up the breakups, which everyone knows are mega-challenging. I cut my hair a lot because, I suppose, that’s how I deal with breakups.
I am a big collector of awesome formal wear. I know it sounds crazy – and it totally is. But I can’t help myself. I love me some pretty dresses. This one is velvet and I was off to the ballet.
I continued to dance a lot at swing or Latin clubs. Here I am performing with John, my brother, at his high school ‘s mock beauty pageant for boys. We won best talent. It was super fun and not because we won, but because I got to dance with my brother and it was my very last time I danced. This was January.
This is me and that same brother after I was paralyzed. I’d gotten leave from the hospital to attend his graduation in May.
It was a challenge, but I started reentering my life as a quadriplegic.
I competed at Ms. Wheelchair America in New York. I won the Spirit Award, which sounds fluffy, but they really only give out two awards besides the crown.
I started speaking. Not by any effort on my part, people just kept asking me to speak. Then more. Then more…
I made the cover of the Wasatch Woman magazine in February 2008. The article was about embracing the changes that happen in our lives.
I married Whit Johnson later that month – February 29, 2008. Best decision and best blessing ever.
After I was married, it felt as if my life really began. I started writing books and speaking more and truly loving life now with my wonderful husband. Together it feels as if we can do anything. We run the Ms. Wheelchair Utah pageant, which has branched out to include more divisions and is now two separate pageants each year. And there are many other ventures I get to take now that I am married to the greatest person on earth (at least the very greatest person for me).
My CDs and books are published and now at bookstores. It is surreal to see my name in bookstores. This is me at a book signing.
I received the Weber County Athena award for ‘my’ service efforts. I consider this both Whit’s and my award as we are a team in our serving.
And the best chapter of my life began when Whit and I welcomed little Zula Mae into our lives! It seems my life keeps getting better and better.
Well, pause a second on the better and better, I had a stroke soon after having Zula. I lost the ability to speak coherently and consistently for about 4 hours. I kept experiencing “word salad,” which is how one nurse described it. I just jumbled everything up and couldn’t even tell Whit to call 911. Scariest time of my life!
But I got better and am reminded that my ability to speak is a sheer blessing and nothing that is happening in my life is because I am so talented or I am so hardworking or I am doing anything. All my talents and successes come from God and He could take them at any time.
So, so glad I’m not done speaking yet because my heart isn’t done speaking yet! i have recently had the great privilege to share the stage with John Bytheway and Hank Smith! I’m also so happy for the chance to get to be a speaker during the Time Out for Women tour this year!
But speaking and writing and all that stuff that seems exciting is second to the best, most exhausting, and most happy part of my life. I love to be a mom and wife!
So happy birthday to me! It has been a sweet/sour/rough/happy/lovely 33 years and based on the pattern my life has gone so far, I expect to love the upcoming chapters just as much!