10 for 2010, 11 for 2011

I’m currently sitting on my bedroom floor marveling at the amount of wonderful things (read: things I don’t need and clothes that don’t fit) that are packed up to go to Goodwill, along with a huge garbage bag full of garbage.

I, quite randomly, chose yesterday and today to clean out my room, and I mean my ENTIRE room; 2 dressers, closet, desk, junk drawer, and window cabinet. It’s taken me all day yesterday and today, it’s done!

This cleaning rampage came on the heels of last night spin class. It was a “best of 2010” theme with some of the top hits from this year, and 2010 inspired drills. The last drill of the class was 20 20-second sprints with 10 second breaks in between. 10 seconds doesn’t sound like a lot of break time and, let me tell you, it’s even quicker when you’re on the bike. The goal of these sprints was to start with everything from 2010 on sprint #1 and, by the time we got to sprint #20, to leave all the negative baggage and have a mindset to carry with us into 2011. It definitely was worth all the pain! I tired to pick one specific “thing” from 2010 to shred for each 20 seconds and honestly felt lighter by the time we hit 20.  I got inspired to make my room and all my belongings a little lighter, too.

There will be no resolutions for me this year. I’m usually the girl who makes a lengthy list and ends up beating herself up far too much for not accomplishing or “getting around to them”. Well, except blogging!! That was one of mine last year, and I’ve stuick to it! And thanks for sticking with me!

This year, it’s living, loving, and believing every dream and every goal.

So, as I close out 2010 with a bit more cleaning and celebrations with my family, here’s 10 things I did in 2010 and 11 I hope to do in 2011.

10 for 2010:

(in no particular order)

  1. Graduated from college
  2. Wrote a 65 page thesis
  3. Competed in 3 5Ks
  4. Took a vacation to Disney
  5. Grew deeper in my Faith
  6. Got a job
  7. Had some amazing times with amazing college friends
  8. Started this blog! (and really took pride in it!)
  9. Gave up my walker!! (mostly)
  10. Started truly believing in everything I’m setting out to accomplish

11 for 2011:

(again, no order)

  1. Travel, either alone or with a friend
  2. Compete in at least 2 more 5Ks than those already on my schedule
  3. Get my license
  4. Meet Prince Charming…a girl can dream can’t she?!
  5. Ride a bike, a real one, not a spin bike!
  6. Become even more passionate about my blog
  7. Read some good books
  8. See a professional bike race (see #1)
  9. Grow deeper in my Faith
  10. KEEP truly believing in everything I’m setting out to accomplish
  11. The big W. (see #10 and almost every other blog post I’ve written)

What are some of the things you’re hoping to do in 2011?

Happy New Year Everyone! Be safe and enjoy!

Merry Music

Merry Christmas Everyone! Let us never forget the reason…

and from Pope Benedict XVI’s Christmas Eve homily:

“…God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son…God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways. He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need…He loves us, so that we too may become people who love, so that there may be peace on earth.”

Charity:Water

I’ve been playing around with my template and background for the blog all day! My apologies if it’s been different every time you’ve looked at it for the past few days! 🙂 I’ve changed the background, template, images etc. at least 3 times this week, only to end up changing it back to the original theme. I just can’t seem to find anything I like!

One little addition you will notice though, is my lovely SocialVibe badge on the right. SocialVibe is an organization that partners with different charities to raise money for them by putting these badges on the site and hoping they receive clicks from site viewers. Basically, how it works is you (the visitor) will click the badge. A screen will then open up asking you to complete an activity (anywhere from a survey question to a game of some sort) completely free of charge to you. For every activity you complete from clicking on my badge, I receive 100 points to be converted into charity donations. I just did four activities and it took me about 3 minutes.

What is Charity:Water? I’m going to be changing up the badge every few months because I don’t like representing one charity exclusively, but for now I’ve chosen Charity:Water. This is an amazing organization that was brought to my attention in a few ways. Charity:Water provides clean drinking water for many developing countries in need (Central African Republic, Haiti, Ethiopia) through drilling and installation of manageable clean water wells as well as delivery of clean drinking water.

I first heard of Charity:Water from a friend who attended their Annual Ball last weekend because her roommate gave up/pledged her 21st birthday to raise money for the organization. The power of America’s youth adults. I was really interested to find out more about it just from talking to her and looking at pictures. The next night, I happened to be watching the 20/20 special Be the Change: Save a Life and what was one of the charities they were featuring? Charity:Water. I love when that happens! As my mom and I were watching the amazing organizations they were showcasing, we decided that next year we want to give up our birthdays, or donate in the name of family members for Christmas gifts. There is so much need out there. And here. I don’t want to make it seem like I don’t care about our own country. There is just something that draws me to the international realm.

Those of you who know me personally, know that I have always been about volunteerism, giving, anything of that nature. What you might not know, is that I have faced one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make because of this intense passion.

On January 12, 2010, an earthquake struck Port Au Prince, Haiti. I had friends who were boarding a flight that day to make a mission trip to an orphanage in the town of Duverger. The orphanage had not fully opened yet. In fact, at the time, there was only one child living there. In a Grace most fitting with this mission, the orphanage was relatively untouched by the earthquake, but immediately saw an influx of close to 100 orphans because of this terrible natural disaster. They were not ready to open, but there was no other choice. My friends did not end up boarding their flight to Haiti, as all commercial flights were immediately shut down. Like so many of us, my heart ached for those people and for those children. I found myself unknowingly ending up on CNN and other news channels while trying to write papers, and I constantly had my e-mail open waiting for updates from the individuals who live in Haiti permanently. I felt like my body was here, but my heart had gone to Haiti. When commercial flights opened back up in March of last year, I was approached with the offer of the last plane ticket in the group to travel for a weeklong mission. My heart was overjoyed. But I knew this wasn’t a decision to enter into lightly. I thought and thought, prayed and prayed. My parent’s weren’t really sold on the idea for fear of aftershocks, not to mention accessibility in a developing country. (Sidenote: Do any of my bloggers know anything about this/mission work, etc.?) The more I prayed, the more torn I became. Though my heart wanted to go to Haiti, I knew I wasn’t going to. It wasn’t where the Path was leading. 

It was a tough decision to turn down that offer, and even tougher when it came time to see everyone’s photos from the trip and hear amazing stories of love, hope, and the power of the human spirit, but my mission was, and is currently, to be here. Serving others the way I serve; the way I was made to. It is my hope that this simple act of a Charity:Water badge can be just a small part of that.

Thanks for listening.

Big Picture

I’ve always prided myself on being a “look at the big picture” kind of girl. For the most part. I mean, except for the whole, “I want to accomplish this and I want to accomplish it RIGHT NOW” attitude I sometimes find myself having. But who doesn’t experience that feeling sometime of another in their life?

I had a Crossroads appointment Monday, that I happened to squeeze into at the last minute. I’ve been so happy with how things are going, and still am. I wake up every morning–no joke–and thank God for bringing me to this place and to these therapists; because for the first time in, honestly ever, it feels right. It’s difficult for me to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, why Crossroads is so amazing and why it has worked for me when so many people didn’t think it would and so many other therapies really haven’t. But the more I go for appointments, the more I realize I don’t need to explain anything, because I know it, and I feel it. 

Like I said in a few post back, I was struggling recently with feeling like I’m not doing enough for myself outside of PT and one my own. I talked, at length, about it with my PT Anthony yesterday and his answer was one that I didn’t expect. So I thought I’d share his insights here, for any interested readers.

I basically said that I didn’t feel like I was doing anything because I may work on standing for 3 minutes a day, or stretching and that’s it. And, while I know those things are all helpful, they don’t feel like enough because I’m so used to the mindset of “okay, do these 5 exercises and cross them off your list everyday”. Anthony laughed, and we had a long conversation about how your body isn’t made to work that way. We don’t do things in isolated movements. We don’t lift a box by simply curling our biceps. We are dynamic movers. We use our movement systems and our postural systems together. They feed off of each other. So, why would we want to intentionally seperate something that doesn’t work seperately? Good point.

The second question I asked was sort of more specific to me, but can also be useful to anyone reading–disability or not. More about the brain and thinking through a task and why, sometimes,  you seem to get caught up on some part of the task. Anthony told me when I’m working on something to focus on what I’m trying to accomplish only, not every step, because our bodies do all of that extra thinking at a level below our consciousness so that we don’t have to; and when we try to over think or work against that, it becomes harder. Makes complete sense.

Yet, it’s not something we ever think about because we’re all taught that working out the “right way”, again disability or not, means to do a certain number of this or that so many times a week. But in reality, it’s all about the big picture. Because how often when you’re functioning on a daily basis are you really going to stop and say, “Okay, now I have to shift my weight to my right foot”? Never. Or hardly ever. So, why start that habit when practicing to do something?

I think, in a way, (for my parent readers out there especially!) kids have it right. For many children with and without special needs, anything they do is trial and error. And it’s also done without higher order thinking. Okay, mainly because they haven’t developed that yet, but still! There are some things worth overanalyzing, but I’m starting to learn that the movement of your or your child’s body isn’t one of them. You can aid it in ways that might be easier or more efficient, but really it’s taking the time to work through itself, even if it’s a slow pace.

It’s all becoming much more clear why everyone’s body is made to go through the developmental sequence. There’s a reason we roll, crawl, sit, etc. in the order we do. Forgive me if I don’t know the correct order, still haven’t gotten through the whole sequence at 22. 🙂 It’s also becoming more clear that, if I want the end of that sequence: walking, the stages I’ve “missed out” on are what I should be working on.

Like I said, now it’s all making sense as to why this might take years to accomplish. Just some food for thought.

Meaning of Christmas

It dawned on me today that Christmas is less that a week away and I have yet to acknowledge it, one of my favorite and most important holidays, on the blog! Opps!

Now that I’m older, I can honestly say that the joy in the season for me really comes from it’s true meaning now. For the past few years, I’ve not cared about the gifts so much (although presents are always nice) and really just enjoyed the time spent with my family and my own private time spend reflecting on the birth of that beautiful baby who changed the World forever. 

I don’t want to get too strong here, for those of you that read the blog and could care less about my faith or my religious beliefs–although, you’ve been getting a lot more of that than I originally intended of this blog (that’s God for you!).  There’s just two things I wanted to share with you tonight about the beauty of this Christmas holiday.

First, Sarah over at Stand Tall Through Everything wrote an amazing post today reflecting on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (today) and the power that one woman’s “Yes” had on every single of us who live this faith. Sarah was probably the second blogger I started following regularly, and her posts are really wonderful and well-written.  Please take the time to go check it out! It really moved me. Thanks Sarah, for letting me post it up on my blog!

Second, is one of my all-time favorite Christmas quotes. Bear with me as I tell you the quick story of where it comes from. The quote is from the longest running soap opera Guiding Light, which ended its 72 year run on September 18, 2009. I know some of you are probably judging me right now for pulling a Christmas quote from a soap, but this wasn’t just a tv show in my family. Guiding Light was sortof an undetectable gule in my family. It binded generations (my grandmother, to my mother and my aunt, to me and my sisters), and it brought us together for an hour each day, whether in person, over the phone, or simply in heart. My grandmother was always the go-to person about GL questions as she was the one who’d watched (or in her case listened) to the show the longest. Anything Grandma told you, you never questioned. My grandmother passed away in 2007 and I remember one of the last conversations I had with her was calling to see if she watched today episode and what she thought about the writers bringing some of the old characters back (and more importantly, if their storylines were truly accurate!). Watching GL was never quite the same when my Grandma passed away, but I remember calling my mom everyday to have the same conversations if I was away at school, and DVRing each episode to watch with my mom if I was home for a weekend or on a break. For those, and many more, reasons this quote holds a special place in my heart. Merry Christmas Everyone.

“When times are tough, we have to stop and appreciate what we do have, what’s important to us, and what keeps us waking up in the morning; our family. Our lives may not be perfect. We make mistakes, but we survive, and we forgive, and although the future may seem uncertain, nothing is ever lost as long as we have faith. It’s Christmas. Where the unexpected gift from the least expected person can turn everything around. Where there once was darkness, there may be light. And above all, there is that one gift that costs nothing, that requires no wrapping, and that is love. Love. What would Christmas be without it?”

Inked.

I got a tattoo 2 days after I turned 18, my freshman year of college. This wasn’t a spontaneous Friday night activity during a trip to New Haven. I’d been planning it for a long time.  My parents came to take me out to dinner on my actual birthday, and I showed them the sketch so they’d be prepared when I came home for Winter break. I’m not sure that they were happy, but I was 18 now after all. 

I went with my best friend, who had come to visit for my birthday, and sat anxiously waiting for the tattoo artist to come talk to me about what, exactly, I wanted, where I wanted it, etc.

I knew I wanted a heart. My mother always told me when I was born, there were hearts everywhere. She saw them in everything. I even had a heart-shaped birth mark on my arm! It’s since faded, but I can still make it out if I look closely enough.  

I knew I wanted whatever words I chose to be in Italian. First, as a nod to part of my heritage. Second, because words in Italian just look so much more beautiful.

I knew where I wanted it. Well, kind of. Originally, I wanted it on my back right over my SDR scar because I have such strong dislike for that scar. That was until I was told my pain would probably be magnified at that site. Then I realized I also wanted to be able to see whatever ink I was permanently etching on my body. I ended up deciding on my left hip, just above my hip bone. Another scar of significance.

The words. This was, by far, the hardest decision. I played with Italian translations of words for months. I wanted words that not only fit me, not only made sense, but also fit with the tattoo. I was going to be looking at it for a lot of years.

In the end, I settled on coraggio=courage and amore=love. Courage has somewhat always been the word I live by. I may not do something well, or even succeed, but I will always do it courageously. And have the courage to try.  Amore was a little more difficult of a story. I didn’t want love just because it was going to be attached to a heart. I wanted real love. Genuine love. The kind of love that starts within yourself. There was no translation for self-love, only love of oneself, and that just sounded conceited. Amore it became.

I don’t pay as much attention to my tattoo now as I used to, or as I should. This is, in part, because it’s winter and I’m always fully covered, but even in the Summer months I don’t pay it any mind. It’s also because I’ve become so used to it now. The morning after getting it done, I screamed getting in the shower when I noticed it. My roommate was hysterical. Apparently she knew that was going to my reaction. Over the years, though, I’ve become so used to not even looking at it.  So, I “forget” it’s there.

A reminder. Every now and then though, like this morning, I look down and am reminded of the importance of those words and that symbol in my life. And when I look at my tattoo, I always take a moment to love who I am and what I’ve become. I take a moment to vow to live the day courageously.

So I wanted to remind each of you, too. There’s always a reason to stop and show yourself some love. Even if it’s just looking in the mirror as you pass by on your way to work or class and saying “you look beautiful today”.  Love is nothing without us.  And we are all cheating the meaning of life if we can show love to others, but we can’t show it to ourselves. Courage is in every one of us. In some of us, it lies in getting up in the morning to face the day. In some of us, it lies in jumping out of our comfort zones and leaving our families for months to go explore all this world has to offer. In some of us, it lies in believing in that dream so much that it is what you live and breathe, so much that you actually dream about it at night. No matter where it lies in you, it is there. And it will never leave you.

This is my challenge to you: live, and love, courageously.

Hope [noun, verb]

1. The feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

2. To look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.

The two definitions of hope, courtesy of Dictionary.com. I wanted to start out my Winter Camp Care post with these definitions just to show how broad hope can be, how there are so many ways one can have hope, and how there are so many reasons to have hope. Almost any situation, event, or object can fit into one of these two definitions. We all have different hopes. For ourselves, for our loved ones, for the world, the list could go on and on.

As I mentioned in my MM post (I hope you enjoyed those songs!), hope was the camp theme this session. Our shirts were printed with Faith. Hope. Love. on the back; hope a little more bold and upfront than the other two. We all knew this was going to be an amazing session, but we always think that.

Our morning inspiration started off with one of the therapists reading the Rich Mullins essay, 23rd at 32. It’s a moving story about fear, faith, hope, and the balance between the three. Check it out at the link above. I was playing both sides this Camp; patient in the AM, volunteer in the afternoon, but my session wasn’t until midmorning on Saturday. It ended up being nice enough outside that we took some of the kids (in coats and hats and gloves, don’t worry moms!) to play wonderball, and soccer, and whatever else they wanted. Some kids could run around on their own, some had to be pushed, and some had to be carried. Either way, everyone was having a good time! And we definitely have some future soccer stars at Camp! 🙂 

I played photographer for a bit outside and will post some of those pictures when I get them. Capturing these moments through the lens is always as exhilarating as it is to experience them first hand.

When I went in for my Bootcamp session, which started out with another mini Crossfit workout, I was less than thrilled. I’ve been feeling “stuck” and like I don’t do enough for myself outside of PT sessions. This tends to be a recurring thought every 6 months or so.  With that feeling, I wasn’t really expecting the bootcamp session to go that well. Plus, I’m still getting used to this whole “crutches only” lifestyle I’m trying to live. It’s hard to explain, but there a safety in the walker, knowing that if you let go to lift something over year head, it’s behind you if you lose your balance. With crutches, if you lift an arm over your head, you’re also lifting half of your stability. Without going into major details, it was much harder for me this time, because it was much more active.  Which also gets my brain playing the “this shouldn’t be so hard” game. I don’t recommend it. Not that fun of a game! The second hour stretching felt amazing, though! If someone could come over and decompress my spine for that long everyday I’d be a very happy girl!

My absolute favorite part of Winter Camp is the Christmas Show. It’s a performing arts showcase, but on by the Skating Club of Hartford. They sing, dance, and dress up (no skates!) to perform different Christmas Carols and love-themed songs to represent the Christmas season. The kids love seeing Santa, Rudolph, and Gingerbread men dance around for them, and I love watching the joy on their faces. In the middle of the show,I wish I could tell you what song it was, I broke down crying. I’m not ever sure what sparked it, but something got to me. 

The theme was hope. And with these children, these families, these volunteers, and these therapists–this is the place I feel most hopeful. I sat there for a minute just taking in my emotions and having one of my ever-popular silent conversations with God; wondering where this came from and what I was supposed to do about it.  I made up my mind that whatever He wanted to do about it would be done tomorrow, because all that was left of the day was indoor activities while the 3rd bootcamp session went on.

The third bootcamp session. The deeper I got into conversation, I knew He was willing me to be at the 3rd session. After the way the first session went, I didn’t know if this was such a good idea. But I’m learning it’s better not to question. 😉 Apprehensively, I drove back to Crossroads and asked my PT if the 3rd group was a specific group of kids, or if I could join again…and downstairs I went again. Since all of us in 3rd session had already been stretched in the morning, it was much more active. We worked on core strength, kneeling, crawling & patterning, and sitting. Yes, sitting. For all of us in the group, sitting on the floor unaided either cross legged or otherwise, can be really challenging and quite a workout. I hadn’t worked on sitting or really been able to, since Summer Camp. Or so I thought. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to do it for about 5-8 minutes. And everything else. All while this was happening, two moms were telling stories about their sons, both young adults ages 18 and 23, who had been told to have no hope. Doctors had written them off, therapies had been cut, nothing seemed to be going anywhere. Until they decided to take control, both by coming to Crossroads and Camp and by doing something for themselves and working toward something. The stopped using everyone else’s lack of hope for them as an excuse, and found their own.

As you can imagine, being in a room with 12 other people, all fighting as you have fought can really play with your heart. As one of these moms was speaking for her son Chris, who has very limited verbal ability, all I could do was stare into his eyes, and sit a little taller for a little longer, even though I was getting tired; to keep fighting as he does.This was my moment of awakening, my moment of finding my own hope. I don’t want to say I’d lost hope in the past few months, but it wasn’t easy to find. I was still using every excuse in the book to my advantage. I was still afraid to try. And I still had not found reason for me to hope for myself. That all changed this camp. I realized that it’s not magic fairy dust that gives me the ability to do very well in a PT session, but then not at home. It’s not environmental. And there’s no outside force to blame. Yes, therapies have been cut and doctors have expressed their lack of belief, but it’s been 2 years now. I can’t keep using that as my shield anymore.  It’s all on me. I’m the one putting in the effort or not putting in the effort. And I’m the one holding myself back or propelling myself forward.

There you go, more life lessons learned via Camp Care. Hope you enjoyed!

Music Monday: Camp Care edition

The theme for Winter Camp this year was HOPE. Hope for the children, hope for their families, hope for all of us. We all can lose hope sometimes, but it is never truly gone. That’s what this weekend taught me. Through two amazing campers, who you’ll hear more about this week!

Until I have time to write a true Camp post, I thought I’d share the two songs that shaped Saturday session at Camp 🙂

Love Me-JJ Heller



I Still Believe-Jeremy Camp