Friday, May 17, 2013

"Be in the moment"

"What does it mean when you 'like' someone or something on facebook? I always feel so pathetic when I ask someone to 'like' my page as if it really means something. Does it mean something?" Lee Woodruff asked looking right at me as she began her talk to share with us her musings on life and writing her first novel, "Those We Love Most". {Thank you to Tom McManus for taking these amazing photos to capture the evening} at Brookline Booksmith on Wednesday evening.

I met Lee Woodruff two weeks before I ran the 2009 Boston Marathon as part of Spaulding Rehab's Race for Rehab Team. We, team members, received a message from Ashley Bronson, the special events coordinator at the time encouraging us to hear Lee and others speak about traumatic brain injury and the partnership between Spaulding and the VA treating returning veterans with PTSD and TBI. I distinctly remember telling myself that I didn't need to go to that. I no longer worked at the VA. I was no longer a social worker. But I got another reminder that it would be wonderful to have the race for rehab team represented at the event. Okay Universe, I'll go.

It was an inspirational afternoon as Lee talked about her journey with her husband, Bob Woodruff, after he was critically injured in the Iraqi war. A panel of experts followed her talk discussing the latest treatments for PTSD and TBI. In 2008, one of the members of the Race for Rehab team was running in honor of a veteran whose family fought and won having the VA pay for their family member's care at Spaulding. He was at the event along with his family who I met at the pre race pasta dinner in 2008. It was stunning to see his recovery. They encouraged me to share my story with Lee. We made a wonderful connection. She is the embodiment of warmth, kindness and sincerity.

The next time I saw Lee was at Brookline Booksmith for the book signing of "Perfectly Imperfect."

I was stunned that she remembered me. She asked me how my marathon run was!

We stayed in contact via email and via my comments on her blog. She was incredibly generous to donate signed books for our fund raising events.

When I saw that her first novel was being released and she blogged about independent book sellers, I asked her if she would like to have a book signing at Brookline Booksmith. I worked with her publicist and the events coordinator at Booksmith to make it happen.

Lee spoke of relationships, resiliency and the importance of sharing our stories. She is hysterically funny, able to laugh with herself and is deeply honest. She shared with us that on her way to Germany to see Bob who was in a coma and it was uncertain whether he would live, she brought a very dark book with her, "We Need to Talk About Kevin." Someone asked her why she was choosing to read that before going to visit her husband in intensive care. She said because no matter what you are going through, someone is going through something worse and it puts our pain in perspective."

She talked about how she is amazed at the resiliency of the Spirit to overcome anything in life. In "Those We Love Most" she takes us on that journey of healing and forgiveness after a 17 year old accidentally hits and kills a little boy with his car. She spoke to what happens when we 'take our eye off the ball' and are not living in the moment.

Lee said that more than anything else, when she does a book tour, she loves hearing the stories from the people who come out to hear her speak. She cares deeply about life, about people, about truth and living an authentic life. I was so surprised when she walked in and took her place at the podium that she remembered me although it had been two years since we last saw each other. I remember writing on her blog after reading Perfectly Imperfect that I feel as though I've made a new friend; that I felt as though I was having a cup of tea with her and we were sharing stories.

She is a friend in every sense of the word. There aren't a lot of words that need to be exchanged but there is a sense of kinship and connection whenever we are together. I asked a question about how Bob is doing now and she said, "Really well....I mean I'm his wife so I notice things but he's doing great -- you know - you know the capacity of the brain to regenerate..." I sure do ... Lee delivers a message of hope, healing and possibility while acknowledging the angst and grief inherent in life.

She read a passage from the book which describes what she believes happens when we leave our physical bodies. I got goosebumps.

When it came time for the book signing, she gave me a huge hug, apologized that her schedule was so crazy and we didn't have time to get together for yoga this time and said I looked wonderful. She genuinely wanted to know how I was doing.

I let her know I am doing really well in so many ways and we are so blessed. I let her know that we are healing from Marathon Monday. I told her where we were and her eyes filled with tears. No words were needed. She said she was so glad that we got out safely and are doing well. I asked her if she could please sign the book to Mary and Tom -- she said you bet I will and then looked behind me to thank Tom for coming out and it was wonderful to meet him. (She had told us she was in a huge rush to drive back to New York after the signing so we were fast, slick and to the point).

She signed our book, "Be in the moment." We know all too well that life can change 'in an instant' and that all we can do is to live fully in the moment that is right now. What a blessing to spend beautiful moments with Lee Woodruff. I cannot wait to dive into "Those We Love Most." You know I'll be writing a book review. Pick up your copy at your local independent book seller today.

There Comes a Moment from Songs of Freedom:Poems From a Healing Odyssey Volume II:Seasons of the Soul now available along with Volume I:Elements of Healing on Amazon

There comes a moment
a culmination of moments really
when Truth becomes stronger than fear
when heart breaks open into wholeness
and the power of love crushes all that went before.

There comes a moment when the soul and heart's desire
becomes crystal clear
and you lovingly hit yourself on the forehead
why didn't I see this before?

There comes a moment when the old ways no longer serve
and you realize
you cannot possibly serve two masters
the two masters being fear and love.

There comes a moment when playing small
and staying in the 'comfort zone'
becomes intolerable
when passion burns so brightly
lies are consumed in its flames.

There comes a moment when you wake up
to the magnificence of who you really are
and tears of joy, relief and release
like an ocean wave on a hot summer's day
bathe you in the waters of rebirth.

There comes a moment
and that moment is now.

From my heart to yours
With total love and deepest gratitude,


Friday, May 3, 2013

Healing in Community - Marathon Sports

"We don't heal in isolation, we heal in community," is a tag line of Michele Rosenthal founder of Heal My PTSD and author of "Before The World Intruded" a riveting trauma recovery memoir. That sense of healing in community was powerfully evident Wednesday evening as over 300 people came out for the Wednesday night run at Marathon Sports on Boylston Street.

In February of 2008, after declaring that I would run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab, I walked into Marathon Sports to be fitted with my first pair of running shoes - ever. As a polio survivor who lived literally in my head, I had never run and never owned a pair of running shoes.

I was greeted by Spencer Aston who asked me what I was in meaning what running shoes was I wearing. I told him that these running shoes belonged to my daughter and I put them on to come into the store. I had no idea that a friendship would blossom not only with Spencer but so many members of the Marathon Sports family.

Yes Marathon Sports is a family. It's a family woven together by running, a sense of giving back to the community and on the 3rd Monday of every April, the family comes together for Marathon Monday. From the store in Wellesley to the Beacon Street store and at the finish line on Boylston Street, members of the family gather with their families and friends to watch the Boston Marathon.

During our grueling training through one of the most brutal winters, Marathon Sports supported us in our runs. We would gather with Domenick D'Amico at the Brookline store and he would map out our route for the day. He would call the Wellesley store to let them know we were out on the course and that we would be stopping in to use the bathroom, fuel up with water and anything else that we needed to get through our long run. Domenick and the Marathon Sports family got us to the starting line healthy and to the finish line with a smile -- and a lot of tears --

We became very close with the then manager of the Brookline store, Alison who now manages the Melrose store. We were out on the course for a long time and she was so worried about us. She greeted us with hugs and helped us to stretch and warm up once we got back to the store.

My second race ever was the Marathon Sports 5 miler.

We finished dead last and the entire family was there honking and cheering as we crossed the finish line.

Two years ago, I asked the owner Colin if I could watch the marathon in the sweet sacred spot in front of the store. He said of course since I was part of the family. Tom was running for Childrens Hospital Boston and a group from Boston University College of Communication was doing a photojournalism piece on his run. They wanted a clear view of him when he crossed the finish line.

When we needed a donation of a gift certificate for a fund raiser for Tom's 2011 run, Colin gave without hesitation. The proceeds of the 5 miler go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and they are always doing runs which donate to local charities.

Even though I traded in my running shoes for bare feet and a yoga mat, I am still a part of this community of runners. I feel the bond with the members of my Marathon Sports family. And even though a bomb may have torn into the fabric of the store on Boylston Street, it only served to strengthen the fiber of love and community of the Marathon Sports family as you can see from the story from CBS.

Focus on the Healing from Songs of Freedom:Poems From a Healing Odyssey Volume II:Seasons of the Soul available on Amazon

Focus on the healing not on the wound
at first blush imperceptible changes
like the first peak at the crocus breaking ground
we can only imagine
what flower will emerge after the darkness of winter…

I had a dream last night
terror filled my body in the darkness
my father the intruder
thunder and lightning filled the room
crashing around me
home made sticky buns on the stove
what a mess

“I never wanted to harm you”

Hyperventilation slows into steady breath
no longer raw and weary from the fight
wounds bound
roots grounded
peace descends
Spirit soars
only the trace of a scar remains
a reminder of the miracle of my life.

From my heart to yours
With total love and deepest gratitude,