Make A Difference (through music) Monday

Hi Everyone!

Just a heads up, this will probably be my last post before heading to Camp Care Thursday-Sunday then immediately off to a beach vacation for a week with my family.  I’m trying to “unplug” for this time, as I always do during camp, but you never know what I might get inspired to share with you all during a week on the beach.

I wanted to share a little something about Camp Care before I go though.  I thought, what better way than through music since music becomes a huge inspirational diving board for our morning and evening meetings.  This will be my 6th Camp Care session now, and these two songs have kind of become a perfect definition of what Camp Care is for me and for every one of the therapist staff, volunteers, kids and their families. (Note: get your tissues for the Matthew West song…)

Tenth Avenue North-Love Is Here

Matthew West-The Last Ones

For my readers that don’t know much about Camp Care, please check it out here. It is an amazing, completely free, therapy and recreation camp for children with special needs. Any of my SN parents readers or peers, if you are in the area anywhere driving distance to Connecticut (and even if you’re not) it’s worth checking out for you or your child.  Therapy focuses on both manual therapy techniques and functional therapy. I might have been a few years late on the bandwagon, but it has truly made the biggest difference in my life in terms of other therapies.  At least, that’s how I feel now that I’m an adult and have tried various things for myself. (Second note: you do not have to be of any specific religious affiliation to take part in camp or its activities.)

I know so many of you reading this have been such a huge source of support for me over the years through all my different trials and triumphs and I thank you immensely for that.  Many of you have supported my fundraising efforts in the annual Columbia Classic which benefits Camp Care.  This is so important since the camp, and its therapeutic riding program, are entirely run on donations. Thank you.

Even though I choose to participate in Camp Care as a volunteer first and foremost, when the time comes to participate as a camper, I thank God that I have so many of you praying for me and hoping for me. It makes all the difference in the world for me and my spiritual, emotional, and physical successes during Camp Care. Thank you.

All I ask is that you continue to keep all of us involved in camp in your thoughts and prayers over the coming days. All my love.

Summer fun! and the Camp Care Countdown

Yesterday, I read a post by Dana of the Uncommon Sense blog–a wonderful blog about life with her adorable daughter Maya! She talked about having SBAD, or Seasonal Blog Abandonment Disorder, and how she’d been letting her blogging slip by in exchange for ice cream and park trips and all-around fun. I got a kick out of this concept and it is so true!! Summer showcases so many more fun activities than sitting on your couch (ahem, like I am right now) blogging.

For the most part, I feel like I’ve suffered from this a bit as well between weekend getaways, trips to the beach, and just being plain old busy, but right now I feel like writing. About what?

My first swimming lesson went great last week! I was nervous the night before, but when the time came I promised myself I’d try everything at least once and see where it took me. By the end of the half hour a swam all way to the deep end with just two noodles under me for support! Needless to say, I will be having another lesson this week.

We are officially 11 days away from Summer Camp Care 2011 and I couldn’t be more excited! Not only will this summer’s camp be acting as a sort of reunion between myself and some QU friends that I, regrettably, don’t get to see very often, but I also feel more “ready” for this year’s camp.  As I said in this post, you can never be truly ready for the amazingness that camp bestows upon you, but you can try.

First off, I’ll be staying up in the town when Camp Care is located this year, which is going to make things all the more wonderful! Camp is only about 45 minutes from my house and I had been going one because it was easier to shower, etc in my own house but that also meant either leaving early from fun night events with the kids like the BBQ and talent show, or getting home at 11pm only to leave the house by 6:30 the next morning. No good. Staying will allow me to have extra bonding and fun time (and extra sleeping time!!)

I’m also looking forward to taking on the dual role of Camp Care camper and volunteer. At past camps, I have had moments of questioning my place–if I really belong as a camper or a volunteer, what I could even do to help the kids, what I could even do to help myself?  Though I’ve had many times of questioning myself over the past few months, I feel much more sure of my abilities to be available for our amazing kids physically and emotionally. I also feel much more sure of my own goals and things in order to make the most of my experience as a camper.

It’s going to be a great 4 days!! Followed immediately by a week of beach vacation before the semester starts up…but let’s not talk about that yet!!! 🙂

Friday Five

1. It’s been 20 days since my last post. Sorry! This is my attempt at promising to be a loyal (and informative) blogger over the next few months.

2. Next Tuesday, I will officially be done with my first year of Grad School! It’s crazy how fast a school year goes by. Speaking of Grad School, I’m totally using this random blog post as a way to procrastinate on writing y last final of the year. Whoops.

3. I came across an amazing disability awareness site and clothing line the other day. I’m definitely going to be ordering a shirt or two. Check out 3E Love and let me know what you think! 🙂

4. As of this afternoon, I officially have a fully modified vehicle to use in my possession. I’m hoping to get enough training in and test for my license by the end of summer!

5. Camp Care is coming up in just under 3 months…look for a series of posts focused around Camp, its mission, kids, and what you could do to be a part of this years Camp Care! 🙂

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!

but Freedom can never be found behind those walls

…so just let ’em fall, just let ’em fall.

Well, here we are! The official “Camp Care 5k Recap”. As I’m sitting in bed, still trying to stretch parts of my body I didn’t even know existed before yesterday, I’m still in a state of shock and awe over how amazing yesterday was. I’m going to try and walk (no pun intended) you through as much as I can, but I’ll just say upfront that there is not much I remember after seeing the mile 3 sign, except praying my body would keep moving until I saw the timing truck and the finish line!

We arrived at the race about an hour early; plenty of time to get checked in, stretch, and let the nerves really start to build up! My sister had decided to come run the race with us (with jogging stroller and 14 month old in tow!) and my mom, aunt, and uncle came to see us off at the start. I met up with Dan and a few other friends that were running the race and it was nice to stand around laughing for a little bit before we had to part ways until the finish line. We were all standing around and out comes the video camera and Dan asks me what my goal time was. Something I had picked out in my head, but wasn’t planning on sharing at all!  I looked away for the camera for a minute, then thought of that saying “if you don’t declare your goals, they’re nothing but thoughts.  Armed with fear and anxiety, I declared 1 hour and 45 minutes as my goal.  I completed this race in 2:11:33 last year, so this seemed good to me. Plus, that meant an average of about 32 minute mile, so I figured I could try for it.  On this course, there is a .3 mile walk to the official start, so about 10 minutes before start time, I decided I’d had enough standing around worrying and stressing–it was time to go!

Heading down to the start line I had all sorts of thoughts circling around my head. What if things go wrong? Should I really be doing this? Again? Why, exactly, am I here? Why is it SO cold? Wow. That old guy’s shorts are REALLY short! But most importantly, the last thought I really remember thinking was I belong here. I belong on this start line, with these people. I sent up a quick prayer to the Loving Father to watch over me and all of my friends running the race, that we’d be safe and injury free, and that He’d show me my way if I started to lose my thoughts or feel like I was losing Him, over the next few hours. My aunt came through the crowd of runners to give me one more good luck hug before we started and my sister and I waved good luck to each other from afar. I decided to move up a little closer to the start line so I would waste too much unnecessary energy, and saw Dan one more time. We exchanged a “have a good race boss” and that was that.

I went into the day telling myself I was going to take things slow, save up my energy, and just focus on finishing, but as soon as that gun went off pure adrenaline was coursing through my body.  I don’t know if it was that I was in the middle of a pack of actual runners, or that I was just so nervous I had to go, but I took off running. Literally. I really wanted to stay with people as long as I could, and that’s what I was going to try to do. I kept up a running pace for maybe a half mile, then decide it was time to back off a bit and just focus again on the end goal.  I also was going to try to only stop every mile if possible. So far everything was working out. We got to the mile 1 time check at 28:21; 4 minutes faster than my target time and 5 minutes faster that the previous year! I was ecstatic! 🙂

All I really wanted was the time check at mile 1. I was feeling good and didn’t think that stopping for a real break was necessary yet. Half a mile later, we were reaching the main road of Rt. 66 with traffic speeding by us (luckily there was a wide shoulder) and the hellish 1.5ish mile hill up ahead. It was a good place to stop, take in some water, and mentally prepare myself for what was to come. This hill and I have a history, a very long, angry history. It’s slow, but painful. Yet I’ve now learned it looks much worse than it actually is. Last year on this hill, I cried. A lot! I was mentally and emotionally defeated before I was even halfway to the top. I stopped at least 10 times. This year, I took off head down, and was determined to push through. About a quarter mile up the hill, I saw my sister running toward me, having finished the race and come back to make sure I was okay. I have never been more excited to see a member of my own flesh and blood. Just having her there gave me a little more energy to keep going. Fast forward to about half mile left, and I see a white hat coming over the top of the hill, running toward us. I had to wait until I saw something more than just a hat, but I knew it was Dan. In that moment, I’m pretty sure I started crying. Only for a second though, because my energy needed to be on the pavement beneath me. I was not expecting this at all. I knew he was going to finish with an amazing time, and expected him to be waiting at the finish with everyone else if anything. I was doing fine, it wasn’t that I needed rescuing, but we have a unique friendship in that we know what makes each other tick, what buttons to push, and just what to say to motivate each other in a time of need, whether it’s through pissing one another off or lending a heartfelt comment (in my case, it’s usually the first that works best!); something that’s innate within the both of us, and makes us both thank God we were luck to find each other as friends, and I knew I’d need that in this last leg of the race. And I was right. I did need it.

FINALLY, we saw the stoplight indicating we were on the downhill and almost ready to turn onto the little over half mile finishing straight (which was straight, but definitely not quite flat). My sister turned to me and said “Okay, Molly when you get here you can’t stop, you just have to finish” and I was going to try my hardest. My steps were getting slower at that point, looking back now, I think it was definitely a bit more mental, knowing I was at the end and wanting so badly to be done, but more on that later. Really the only thing I remember from that point on was all my friends and family around me telling me I could do it, to keep going, Dan telling me to keep turning over each step, and the State Trooper in the car behind us blasting Hey, Soul Sister. Yeah Train! When I saw the timing truck and the owner of Crossroads/director of Camp Care at the finish line, adrenaline kicked in again. I managed to squeak out one little run/sprint to the end and crossed the line with the biggest smile and sigh of relief known to man.

I heard the timing company report my time of 1:54:16 and, while I couldn’t be happier I beat last year’s time by 17 minutes! I couldn’t help but think I was only 8 minutes off of my goal time and thought of spots where I could have pushed myself harder. Part of this comes down to my training, or lack thereof, and how that would most definitely help my times and endurance. I tend not to train as formally as I should or could, solely because I don’t take the time to modify training plans to my needs or don’t think that it matters since I’m not an elite runner.  The thing is though, it does matter, because I do go out to these races looking for my own PB times. Personal Bests. The other half of this is the mental component. As I blogged about prior to the race, I tend to shut things off mentally before I even give myself a chance physically because I believe I know how it is going to go. I was much better about not doing that as much this race, but old habits die hard and it definitely hindered me a bit!

One more piece of this 5k puzzle. The title of this post and opening line come from another track off of Matthew West’s new album The Story of Your Life entitled “The Healing Has Begun”. It’s all about carrying the weight of the world and your struggles on your shoulders and finally realizing that you don’t have to do that. That there is someone else who holds the key to your freedom from those weights and those struggles, and sometimes you just have to let your walls fall down to find Him. It really hit me during and after the race yesterday, that I am starting to embrace that Freedom. In ways both large and small, the walls are slowly coming down, and I’m committing myself to believing, working, and fighting until my battle is won; whichever way I find most important and for however long it takes. Maybe I’m not running full 5ks right now, but I’m going to start training as soon as I can feel my legs again. It may take a year, it may take more, for me to reach my goals…but yesterday I was led to a key that unlocked a door to one more way to Freedom in my life.

Thank you all for supporting me through this race. On Twitter, on the blog, phone calls, e-mails, and prayers. I felt every bit of it! I’ll try to post some pictures and videos soon! They’re being temperamental right now. Happy running, walking, or whatever it is gives you your Freedom!

(Nearly) Wordless Weekend: Camp Care 2010

I was going to make this a wordless post completely, but couldn’t really do that. I woke up thinking about how to go about writing my Camp Care post and realized writing wouldn’t happen at all. There are simply no words. So I figured I’d give you all a glimpse of the amazing piece of my life that is Camp Care through the photos and memories of these wonderful, loving children! I’m sad to say that none of these photos are actually mine. Most days I forget my camera or was having too much fun to worry about pictures, but I have great friends who let me share theirs!

So here’s a week in the life of a Camp Care Child: PT (there’s no pics of that..sorry!!), Rec Time, Lake Time, and a few from the annual Talent Show!
Enjoy… 🙂
These children are what make Camp for me. And let me tell you, in 5 days, they heal our bodies, minds, and hearts, much more than we heal theirs. I am sure of it! The looks on there faces, like that of Dominic’s, when they get to experience the freedom of water without fear, or like Bella when she got to play basketball, put life into perspective for me. Oh, and another thing, it is rare that we even know a child’s diagnosis at Camp, unless a parent tells us or a therapist. That label simply doesn’t matter here.

I had my own expereiences at Camp too, of course, much like I blogged about last year in this post. The difference this year was that I was a Camp Care (adult) Kid myself for the morning sessions, then volunteered in the afternoon. This means I went through the 2.5 hour PT session in the morning. It. Was. Amazing. A week of free, intensive PT like I’ve never gotten before and will be lucky to get again. There were so many changes for me throughout the week, from things like increasing my overall body and mechanics awareness to standing longer, straighter, and more confidently to, on the last day of camp, being able to kneel and almost sit back completely on my heels. Something I don’t remember ever being able to do. So, for that, I’ll leave you with a few more photos…

Photo Credits: Jennifer Walts and Theresa Kaminsky. Thanks girls!

Life..Part One

It’s been so long since I’ve really posted. Sorry to my few loyal readers. College life has a way of getting in the way of the things I really want to do. All. The. Time. Honestly, I have so many things that I would love to, and really need to, share with you all. My last “real” blog post was in July and to say that a lot has gone on since then would pretty much be the understatement of the century. Currently I’m listening to Til I Collapse by Eminem (thanks Carlee!!-a song that I HATE to love!)and that’s a pretty good description of life since August.
For those of you who follow me either on Twitter or in real life, you’ll know that I spent a week in August volunteering at a camp called Camp Care which is run by a physical therapy center in CT. Crossroads (the PT place) isn’t like most clinics you would think of. The therapy they do there is both functional and structural. They use manual therapy. Actually, just read the website. I can’t do it justice. http://www.crossroadsphysicaltherapy.org
This was my second time volunteering, but my first experience with the week-long summer camp. The camp is for kids with various physical and mental impairments where they receive free physical therapy treatments for a week and have the opportunity to take part in a lot of activities that they may not normally get a chance to like swimming, running/playing outside, interacting with other children with impairments, etc. This is what I spent my week doing and it wad hands down the most amazing week of my life. Interacting with these kids and their families never ceased to put a smile on my face and remind me how much love can go such a long way in life. I’d be a liar if I said this week was made amazing just because of these kids though. While at camp, I had the opportunity to be treated one day. This was only my second time getting treated as well. I immediately felt differences in my body and knew, though I had been resisting it for a long time, that I needed to give this a try for myself. I also was on the receiving end of some of those fun activities I’d never gotten to do. During the week, I played soccer, my first game of kickball ever!, a fitness challenge that could have easily put be in my grave, and I got to go in the lake and be free in the water. Those of you who know me well enough know that water is one of my biggest fears, but also one of the places I would love to be all the time because I am free when I’m in it. Throughout these 4 days, there was one person..well 2 if you count God, but He’s always beside me..that was there for it all. These experiences caused me to learn how to trust again, something I haven’t done in 5 years–almost to the day. You see, I met this person at my first camp last December and we’ve been friends ever since. I don’t know how I lived my life without him to help me through most of it. (He may or may not be reading this, but if he is…Oh well. He deserves to know how awesome he is. HI DAN! :)) The things I did at Camp Care he won’t take credit for, but I know I couldn’t have done them had it not been for his ability to be there for me, to let me know I could do it (and challenge me when I said I couldn’t) and my ability–however fearful it was–to put my trust in him.
Because of that trust and that friendship, on the last day of camp, as we were walking up the beach, I was able to let go of his arm and take steps on my own. For the first time in 5 years. Coincidence that 5 years ago was the last time I truly trusted? No? I didn’t think so.
Trust is funny. It’s a five letter word. It’s very simple. Yet, it can forever change your life. In the past 4 months, trust has been at the absolute center of my life. Another blog post tomorrow will catch you up on the rest of my adventures, but this was the start of it all, so I feel as though it deserved something all its own…