Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Devoted by Dick Hoyt - A Book Review

I first met Dick and Rick Hoyt at the Hyannis Marathon Race Expo in February of 2009. I shared my story with them and thought I knew their story - that is until I read "Devoted". At this year's Hyannis Race Expo, I decided to buy the book but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I felt moved to take it off of my coffee table and read it. I don't want this blog to be a spoiler for the book about all the things I did not know about Dick and Rick's journey but I will share with you how Devoted has touched my heart and soul.

When you meet Dick and Rick, they are 'regular guys'. Although I haven't been with Rick when he has had his communication device, you can see his eyes are alive and aware following all that is happening around him. It was that spark that Dick and his wife Judy saw that kept them from institutionalizing their son despite the doctors' prediction that Rick would never amount to anything more than 'being a vegetable.'

Devoted is a love story. It is the love of a father for his son; a mother's fierce advocacy and unrelenting pursuit of justice and fairness not just for her son but for children with disabilities, and the love of a family. It is a story of love from the heart of one person who faced his own challenges to make a difference in the life of a classmate. It is a story of how love transforms and is infectious. It is how love drives and motivates Dick to not take no for an answer and have doors opened in the racing community not only for his son but for runners across the globe.

Dick and Rick became an 'overnight internet sensation' in 2006 after a You Tube video about Dick and Rick's 1999 Hawaii Ironman triathlon was set to the song My Redeemer Lives. I found one of the more recent You Tube videos which adds in the words CAN which Rick types out using his adaptive communications technology.

As I read Devoted, the grace and love of Dick and Judy as parents unconditional love for their child I found myself feeling transformed and blessed by their journey. Although my parents were unable to advocate and care for me as a disabled child, it brings me such joy and hope and redemption that Dick and Rick are now role models for anyone facing a disability. They transformed individuals, the world of racing, the lives of people across the globe with their inspirational message Yes You Can. I wear their dog tag when I race as a constant reminder that no matter what the challenge, the human spirit and the love of the world's family can leave all those challenges and obstacles n the dust.

Run don't walk to get your copy of Devoted. Be sure to have a good supply of tissues on hand. My life has been so blessed to know Dick, Rick and Kathy Boyer, Dick's office manager and girlfriend. I know that I will continue to run and race for as long as I am able because despite any diagnosis, I know that I CAN! To quote Rick, "appearances are deceiving".

God bless, be well and know that Yes You Can
From my heart to yours with love and gratitude,

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Moment to Pause

A cold dreary May day (I almost typed November) here in New England. The first email came from my husband, "Does this mean I'm in the Falmouth Road Race? They charged our credit card." All over facebook people were wondering the same thing - but not for long. The second email came through - "It's official!" My husband got into the Falmouth Road race from the lottery. That means I get to have fun without the fund raising although we all know I cherish the challenge of raising money for great causes. Last year Tom ran for Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts Foundation and I had only 3 weeks to raise a minimum of $350. I raised over $800 but I digress.

I was debating whether or not to book our hotel room for the weekend. Our daughter will be home and she didn't have the opportunity to see my husband run in Falmouth last year. Maybe I should wait until plans are finalized but that Voice whispered for me to call our favorite hotel in Falmouth, The Falmouth Inn.

The Voice did not prepare me for what I was about to hear. "Hello, may I please speak with Terri?" She told me that when we are making reservations to always ask for her because she would take care of us. "Um, I'm sorry but we lost Terri." Lost Terri? Like she got lost? She left? but in my heart I knew what she meant. Terri suffered a massive heart attack at the Falmouth Inn 3 weeks ago. She was on life support for 3 days and then they let her go.

I didn't know what to say. Lisa remembered us from last year. I fumbled and said that I would call back later that my booking a room seemed inconsequential right now. "No," Lisa reassured me. "We are selling out fast for that weekend." I asked how Terri's son is doing. He is the same age as our twins and Terri and I would watch each other's kids grow up. Lisa told me that he stepped up to the plate and is taking over a lot of his mother's responsibilities. He is studying hotel management in college. I saw him last year and Terri was so proud of her son. You could see the love and admiration in her eyes as they were both behind the desk at the Falmouth Inn. Lisa looked up to see what Terri had 'done' for us last year and said she would give us the same rates. As we concluded the transaction I told Lisa to please express our condolences to everyone especially Terri's son, and told her I send love and prayers.

Our relationship with the Falmouth Inn began over 16 years ago. I was friends with the members of the Sea and Surf Anglers Club. They would stay at the Falmouth Inn when they fished against the Blue Waters Anglers Club of Bermuda. (Their website hasn't been updated since 2008). We were staying at another hotel in Falmouth and went over to the Falmouth Inn to see one of our friend's from Sea and Surf. Terri was there and she invited my kids to use their pool. "Any friend of Mr. Shearer's and the Sea and Surf Anglers Club is a friend of ours," she said to me. She also gave my kids little flashlights and a few other souvenirs. The Sea and Surf Anglers Club alternated years with the Bermudians coming to Boston and the Bostonians going to Bermuda so the next year that the Bermudians were coming to Falmouth, we decided to stay there.

And so it began....whenever we went to Falmouth, we stayed at the Falmouth Inn. We would go in the dead of winter over February vacation and in the heat of summer and everything in between. I remember going down for Valentine's Day weekend one year with our family. Terri was short staffed for wait staff and the guests began helping her. That's the kind of person she was. Rather than complaining about the service or lack thereof, people just wanted to pitch in and help. We all laughed and felt like we were at home. She had this amazing energy about her. When I was fund raising for some event, I asked Terri for a gift certificate to the Falmouth Inn. Without hesitation she said yes and also suggested other places I contact on the Cape to make it a great silent auction item. Whenever anyone heard that I was a friend of Terri's, they gave without hesitation.

Last year, my husband and I stayed there in November when I was doing a poetry reading on the Cape. When she saw us, she 'chastized' me for not contacting her directly to make our reservation and 'adjusted' the rate. That would be the last time I would see her smiling face or hear her distinctive voice with a Cape Cod accent. As we left the hotel I remember saying to her that we'd see her next summer. She said call me any time you need a room. I sent her a letter reviewing the Falmouth Inn which she said they wanted to use on the website and she sent me a hand written thank you note back with her business card.

And so with tears streaming down my face I have a collage of beautiful memories cascading through my mind. Terri always making sure my kids had enough quarters for the arcade room. Having the Bostonians and Bermudians watch my kids play in the arcade. Hearing K.C. (not of the sunshine band but his nickname was Sundown) sing karaoke in the same place Julia Roberts had once sung karaoke. Terri giving us extra towels, late checkouts and making sure we had everything we needed. I can see Terri behind the desk last August when we were there for the Falmouth Road Race and we talked about the passing of so many Bostonians and Bermudians. The karaoke and the arcade room are gone. And so is Terri. Time goes on. Things change but the love lives on. It will feel strange to go to the Falmouth Inn this year and not see Terri but I know that she would want us to have a wonderful time enjoying all the festivities of the Falmouth Road Race weekend. I know that when I walk in, I will need to take a moment to pause and reflect on the absence of a dear friend and give thanks that she blessed our lives for so many years.

God bless, be well and cherish each moment
From my heart to yours with love and light,

Monday, May 2, 2011

All The Way

During this morning's meditation and breath work, Frank Sinatra's song "All the Way" came to me. When somebody loves you it's no good unless they love you, all the way. It's time for me to love myself all the way. I had an aha moment after my individual yoga lesson with Pat Donaher last week. The pivotal memory of my mother (God bless and rest her soul) neglecting me physically and abandoning me emotionally after contracting paralytic polio has led me to a struggle in my own healing journey. There are moments when I realized I was abandoning myself. I abandoned the feelings of self love. I felt that taking care of myself was a burden. I 'sacrificed' my needs to take care of others. My husband used a beautiful phrase this weekend as we talked about the Warrior pose in yoga. He expanded on what I said in my previous blog post. The Warrior unleashed is not unleashing the anger at those who 'wronged' us but rather unleashing the power of love and forgiveness. Tom said, "The Warrior is there to protect our own happiness and joy."

I could go on and on about ways in which I did not love myself all the way but I prefer to focus on what it means to love myself all the way. It means asking myself at all times, is this action, is this choice a loving choice and one which serves my joy, happiness and love? Sometimes there are things I choose to do which I may not particulary want to do but know in my heart it is the right thing for me to do. When I make those choices, I want to do things with a full, happy and loving heart for that is how I can love myself all the way. Choosing thoughts is another way to love myself all the way. When I allow myself to be fully present in the present moment, I am loving myself all the way. When I choose how I respond to a particular external situation, I am loving myself all the way. When I choose healthy foods and eat mindfully, I am loving myself all the way. When I smile, notice God and the power of Divine within and without, I am loving myself all the way. When I adhere to the list of exercises for breathing and strengthening every day, I am loving myself all the way.

Patience is a wonderful form of self love. The practice of yoga is like learning to play a beautiful musical instrument. It is a process of discovering and nurturing self love and opening up parts of myself that once were numb and dead. When a beautiful series of notes is played, the harmony is magnificent. When I find myself 'off key', I can smile and love myself all the way knowing that practice makes progress and comes a little at a time. In yesterday's Yoga for Runners class with Sarah Sturges at Back Bay Yoga, I moved slowly and with intention. I noticed. I made adjustments to make myself more comfortable in a pose while deepening a stretch. I listened and absorbed the music. Sarah's voice guided my meditation in movement and fueled self love and inner wisdom. It was a total sensory experience. During Savasana, as Sarah walked gently around the room, I could feel energy flowing. I felt my abdomen and pelvic area respond to the energy. In one moment, as Sarah walked by there was a swish of air and I felt fluttering on the right side of my abdomen where there is scar tissue and adhesions from multiple surgeries. I shut down so many parts of myself to defend against pain. Now I get to love myself all the way. "Taller than the tallest tree tops - that's how it's got to be. For when somebody loves you, it's no good unless they love you All The Way."

How are you going to love yourself all the way?

God bless, be well and live like you were dyin'
From my heart to yours with love and gratitude,