Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Baseball Heals"

"Amazing things happen when large crowds gather to share positive emotions...I was the guinea pig to test whether the heart energy of joy is contagious..." Eric Leskowitz, MD

In the pre game show of Game 1 of the World Series, one of the reporters said, "Baseball heals." They did a #BostonStrong segment.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, having the Red Sox go from dead last in the 2012 season to winning the World Series in the 2013 season was powerful medicine for our city.

We came together as a community - Red Sox Nation to be exact - to cheer on the home town team who had not won a World Series at Fenway Park since 1918.

My friend, Rick Leskowitz,MD wrote a book and produced a documentary called, "The Joy of Sox," a documentary on sports and spirituality. I highly recommend the book, the DVD and that you follow his blog. Rick is a holistic psychiatrist at Harvard and heads the Integrative Medicine Department at Spaulding Rehab Hospital.

He explores through scientific inquiry, the power of home field advantage, the energy of the crowd, the power of intention and team chemistry.

He also explores the possibility of Fenway Park as a sacred space.

I was fortunate to go to the premiere of The Joy of Sox at the West Newton Cinema. I have read the book and follow Rick's blog. I watched the parallels between the 2004 Red Sox season and this year's team.

In social media and in real life, you could feel the coherent heart energy of joy and everyone coming together to will a win for the Red Sox.

And last night it happened! As it happened in 2004 with the "bearded idiots". Only this year was not just about a World Series Championship. It was about redemption. It was about healing. It was about strength, and power; moving forward and celebration

A game was played at Fenway Park on April 15th, 2013 as it is played every year on Marathon Monday. Less than an hour before the bombs exploded, the Red Sox had beaten the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2, and celebrated a Patriots Day and Jackie Robinson Day victory. They were en route to Logan Airport. David Ortiz made his now famous, "This is our f****ing city," claim.

And rather than seek revenge or allow anger, resentment and paranoia and fear to fester, the home town team and fans came together for an October Fest feasting on the joy of victory.

Baseball heals. Boston heals. We are Boston Strong.

Focus on the Healing from Seasons of the Soul. My books of inspirational poetry are 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.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Don't Get Ahead of Yourself

When I woke up this morning, I knew in every fiber of my being that I was ready to increase my mileage on training runs. Jamaica Pond had been our go to place for training runs when we were training for the 2009 Boston Marathon.

We know it is 1.5 miles/loop and I told Tom I was ready to do three times around. There were no parking spaces nearby so I got a little extra mileage complete with a steep hill to and from our car for a total of 5 yes count them 5 miles!!!!

It was a chilly start but I had my layers on. The sun was still warm and felt wonderful as we walked around the Pond laced with fall foliage and feeling leaves crunch underneath our feet. I wasn't concerned about pace and wanted to focus on increasing distance.

As we walked by one of the stone walls, I remembered how seeing them covered with snow and the Pond covered in ice inspired one of my poems that I include in the chapter, Running Free in A Celebration of Life: (now available on Amazon

Courage - January 5, 2009
The fear of ice and snow and slush embedded in my soul
a training run in winter - the path to Being whole.
A winter scene - Jamaica Pond - a feast for eyes' delight
to witness nature's splendor and behold this glorious sight.
A leaf - a tiny dancer - skating free without a sound
God's breath directs her movements,as She guides her twirling 'round.
Families of ducks decide to walk or take a dip
a comedy of errors into icy water slip.
The branches now bejeweled with ice bend with loving Grace
sparkling diamonds' anchor water's surface hold in place.
God's hand a glove of glistening snow hugs rocks along the wall
their heads peek out reminding me I'm answering God's call.
A scene I'd never witness if I let my fear take hold
courage triumphed, steppin' out with footsteps sure and bold.
Knowing that the pain subsides and Spirit can prevail
the Marathon is beckoning - through those miles I shall sail.

There were moments when a runner would pass us and I would instinctively pick up my pace. Tom reminded me to slow down and keep a more steady pace so that my body could get used to the increased mileage. By our third time around, I was feeling my "marathon" self emerge. I wanted to just keep going and going and going. As we were heading into the last half of our final loop, an animal totem appeared moving ever so slowly in our path:

Tom posted the photo on facebook with the caption, "We crossed paths with a little caterpillar on our 5 mile run this morning. We wish him or her a successful journey!"

Today the training began for the 2014 Tufts 10K for Women.

But I can't do this the way I did it back in February of 2008 when I declared that I wanted to run the 2009 Boston Marathon for Spaulding. I went from 0 miles to 26.2 miles in just a little over a year. I pushed my body to move rather than move in my body. I am learning how to move in my body. I am learning how to pace myself and just like that fuzzy caterpillar that crossed our path today I am reminded that I cannot get ahead of myself.

Friday, October 25, 2013

50 Crunches in the Pool

We had a small group for the 4pm Find Your Core Strength Aquatics Therapy Class at Spaulding Rehab. Diana Fischer,DPT, whose energy, enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to helping us find our strength is infectious, was excited to have us use the entire pool. Usually we concentrate on either the deep end or the shallow end of the pool for our workouts.

Diana kept the cardio intense and was able to give a lot of individualized attention to each member of the class. She made suggestions that strengthened my quad muscles and helped me to chase after Tom into the deep end of the pool by lengthening my stride. And just so you know -- you can in fact sweat in a pool. She gave us an invigorating workout that my body welcomed.

As the final exercise of the day, Diana gave us a "noodle" and had us put it under our legs so we could lie horizontal in the water. She then instructed us to do 50 crunches.


Flashback to just about 7 years ago when I was being evaluated by Kerry, a physical therapist at the Spaulding Rehab International Rehab Center for Polio and Post Polio. She asked me to do a crunch. The pain was intense in my cervical spine and well - everywhere. Every muscle burned. I was so weak and deconditioned. I really had no idea how I would ever regain my strength....

And so I began to engage my abs and work from my core. With the help of a scar tissue treatment session, the scar tissue from a 3 hour abdominal surgery and repeated laparoscopies was released so that I could access my abdominal muscles. Well not only could I access my abdominal muscles but I could isolate them, engage them and do the 50 crunches.

Talk about feeling the burn!

I can engage and strengthen my quad muscles, the muscles of my upper body and now find my core strength.

Diana was so encouraging while I breathed and did my crunches. She said that my form was perfect and after I finished, she gave me a high five. You would think that she was the one who had experienced the accomplishment as she was genuinely joyful to see what I was able to do.

I took the first steps on my healing journey at Spaulding Rehab Hospital and worked to find my strength in the old building on Nashua Street with what would now be considered archaic equipment. From my memoir, "Coming Home:A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility"

The buzzing hum from the fluorescent lights echoed the buzzing in my nervous system. I sat waiting for my first appointment at the post polio clinic at Spaulding Rehab Hospital. My complexion was as white as the paper that covered the exam table. I felt as fragile and vulnerable as that piece of paper that gets ripped off and tossed away after the exam. Every inch of my body hurt. I was exhausted. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I hadn’t really cared whether or not I woke up in the morning but I had a husband and twins that needed me. Ironically enough I was at the peak of my career as a VA social worker. Somewhere deep inside of me there was a feeling that there had to be a way out of the hell I was living in. I couldn’t sleep. I felt depressed. My award winning career as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs no longer fueled my soul.

The symptoms began in 1996. I had episodes of feeling fatigue and muscle burning. I was anxious. At times, I noticed that the limp from paralytic polio returned. In 1992, I had reconstructive leg surgery to correct the deformity of my left leg and to avoid a total knee replacement at the young age of 39 years old. Here I was 7 years later feeling as though my body was beginning to deteriorate and my life falling apart.

By outward appearances, I had it all. I had a successful career as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Boston. I had the usual angst of raising twin teenagers and was blessed with a loving supportive husband. We had our usual share of crises. My husband was laid off during the dot com bubble burst the day before he had surgery for bladder cancer. My mother and his father died within a few short months of each other. We were members of All Saints Episcopal Church and had a beautiful home in Brookline, Massachusetts.

In 2004, I told my primary care provider that I was afraid there was something wrong with me – really wrong with me. When I described my symptoms to him and suggested I had post polio syndrome, he told me that post polio syndrome didn’t exist. He suggested I was experiencing empty nest syndrome even though my twins hadn’t left the nest yet. He gave me a sample of paxil and told me I needed to see a psychiatrist. He told me I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. I had been in and out of therapy for years. I knew as a clinical social worker that I probably did suffer from post traumatic stress disorder but this felt different. There was something profound happening in my body that needed medical treatment.

And so it began but I had absolutely no idea that I would return to the new Spaulding Rehab Hospital now being able to build strength, train my body safely and move with efficiency and joy and be able to thoroughly enjoy and celebrate being alive.

The Singing Bowl from A Celebration of Life. My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon.

Shaman reaches
palm outstretched
with love
focused intention
the bowl comes to life


a few inches from heart center

she appears

my guardian angel

not as an apparition for eyes to behold
her presence fills the room
an indescribably delicious love

breaking bonds
severing ties with all not love

powerful protector of the light
of my soul

I was saved

I am healed.

I am home.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Training Run in the Fall

When my alarm went off at 7 am the sun was just beginning to rise. I rolled over and checked the temperature on my phone - 54 degrees. Not bad but it wasn't the upper 60 degree temps that has spoiled all of us New Englanders in late October. I felt so happy and grateful that I was getting up early feeling completely recharged after a good night's sleep and going on my training run with Tom. He has to work late tonight so we wouldn't be able to get to Marathon Sports Brookline Run Group our go to place for our Wednesday training runs.

I was so grateful that I had the proper gear to layer for the training run. I overdid it with the Thorlo socks but was glad to have my headband ear warmer and gloves to start. Ellen Gabriel, the store manager at Brookline Marathon Sports gave me the perfect layers for Fall training and I can add one more layer as the winter chill sets in.

After Sunday's training run for the Feaster Five with all of its hills, the twice around flat course for the Route 9 Reservoir seemed easy. I felt really good in my body and we ended up doing a sub 15 minute/mile pace for 3.4 miles.

I share with you these magnificent photos of our Training Run in the Fall!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fitting In

There are two pivotal memories from when I contracted paralytic polio that fueled what Tara Brach would call my trance of unworthiness. One was when my mother was unable to care for me after I contracted paralytic polio and the other was trying to keep up with my brother and friends when I was in a full leg brace.

These emotional wounds are now healing as I move out of the physical posture from paralytic polio and trauma. Those unhealed wounds took me on many interesting roads during my 7 year healing odyssey as I tried to "fit in" and prove myself as a worthy person.

I had it backwards though. This morning I had this epiphany of what an amazing person I am and how I did not "deserve" what happened to me. My father would often say to me, "You are going to get what you deserve," followed by beatings. And those innocent people at the finish line of the Boston Marathon did not deserve what happened to them.

And happens ... and horrible things happen.

My friend Krista, a survivor of sexual assault writes a beautiful blog about her healing journey, "The Bady Partnership." She had several posts about October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When I saw her first post with the alarming statistics about the high incidence of Domestic Violence, I wanted to just hit the delete button. It's hard to acknowledge that I am a survivor of Domestic Violence - 9 years of domestic violence that left many wounds that continue to need healing.

But after all - this IS a message of healing, hope and possibility....

Last week during our Spaulding Aquatics Therapy class, we were talking about the lovely community in the class. Diana Fischer, DPT who teaches the class said she thoroughly enjoys teaching us because we are all so dedicated and committed to finding our strength. Everyone in the class has a story as we often say and as newcomers join us, we exchange our stories. Yet ultimately the stories don't matter. No one is judged. There is no competition. There is celebration when something clicks and new movements happen. Everyone works at their own level. We support each other as though we are family.

I am a member of the running community again. There is no more endurance running or trash talking PR's. There is a feeling of, "I am out here and I am moving and I belong among this very special community."

One of my new friends, Melissa Gleaton who I met yesterday during our Feaster Five training run posted this quote on her Facebook page today:

"It's wrong to believe that you need a certain physical body type to run. All body types can run. The people who succeed are not the ones who have the longest legs or the leanest torsos. The champions are the one who understand how to harness the power of the brain. Determination. Discipline. Organization. Time management. Friendship-making. These skills are what it takes to succeed in running. You have to want it, you have to plan for it, you have to fit it into a busy day, you have to be mentally tough, you have to use others to help you. The hard part isn't getting your body in shape. The hard part is getting your mind in shape."
- Amby Burfoot

I feel so fortunate and blessed that I am getting my body and mind and heart and Spirit in shape as I turn the corner towards my 60th birthday. I finally feel as though I am fitting in my own skin and am fitting into the world. What a fantastic voyage and journey this has been!

From A Celebration of Life -- my books of poetry are available on Amazon

This is the first poem I wrote after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome in the cold, dark winter of 2007 as I emerged from the dark night of my soul. The unconscious was preparing the way for me to run the Boston Marathon
Running the Race - Feb, 2007
Early summer 1959 my kindergarten year
everyone around me filled with nervous fear
Despite the Salk vaccine hope polio would disappear
the polio virus crept right up and knocked me in the rear.
Dancing all around the gym feeling free just like a bird
I dropped to the ground just like a stone and no one said a word.
The pain it was so searing-the diagnosis even worse
"It's polio" the doctor said...he was abrupt and terse.
Called one of the 'lucky ones' I had a 'mild case'
but with the other athletes I could never keep their pace.
Miss Holly physical therapist, curly hair and a warm, broad smile
it tempered the pain of being apart - to walk I'd take awhile.
I always wore those 'special' shoes the kids they poked and teased
with no support and much abuse with childhood I wasn't pleased.
But put nose to the grindstone and learned all that I could
I couldn't kick a ball but my grades were always good.
Years went by and no more thought to polio did I give
I accepted the limp and everything else and decided my life I would live.
But symptoms of weakness and muscle pain did grow
I kept a stoic face hoping no one else would know.

Life no longer was my own I struggled through each day
suffered in silence, isolated from friends-trying to keep depression at bay.
And with the grace of glorious God my world it opened wide
I discovered there was a Post Polio team and they were on my side.
Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do,
resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body- creaks, groans and need for a brace
while in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.
Sought out paths for healing and my spirit flew free
for the first time in life, I could truly be me.
The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.
I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
so much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

It's Not a Race - It's An Event

My facebook status at 9 pm last night was, going to bed early for a 6 am wake up call for a training run. Hope that I will wake up to the Red Sox going to the World Series! And they are. Back when they played the Yankees in a nail biter of a series, a superstition was born in our household. Whenever I went to bed before the end of the game, the Sox won but if I stayed up, they lost. So it only makes sense for me to go to sleep if it is going to be a late night game! Boston can really use a World Series right now as we stand Boston Strong a little more than 6 months after the Boston Marathon bombings.

I'm glad I went to bed early so that I felt rested and refreshed as Tom and I headed to Andover where members of the Merrimack Valley Striders running club were meeting us to help us train for the Feaster Five Road Race happening on Thanksgiving morning.

We watched the sunrise as we drove along the highway. We saw a day dawn with a beautiful blue sky. It was chilly as we gathered in front of Starbucks on Main Street in Andover exchanging hellos while groups were organized into runners, runners/walkers, walkers and 2.5 miles and 5K route. Tom and I decided to go for the 5K route since we knew we probably wouldn't have a chance to return to Andover to train on the route before Thanksgiving.

Two members of the club, Bob and Melissa led us for the first portion of our training. We were the only two walkers. Bob had heard me speak at the Club and asked me how I am doing now. I gave him an update on how well I am doing. As we came to a fork in the road, Bob and Melissa went on to do the 2.5 mile route and told us to not worry about finding our way back. It was a triangle and we couldn't get lost. Lisa who organizes the Feaster Five training run group had assured us before we began that she would sweep the route and come back in with us.

As Tom and I walked through the picturesque neighborhood streets, we felt the warm sun on our faces, the splendor of the changing leaves and the solitude of the neighborhood. We kept a fairly brisk pace for me. I had total trust that we would not get lost if we just followed the directions they gave us even though we were in a totally unfamiliar place. We hadn't exchanged cell phone numbers and I did not have my usual panic of "Am I holding them up? Will they wait for us? Am I going fast enough?" I thoroughly enjoyed the day and moving in my body.

I reflected on the words that Bob said as we were walking together, "The Feaster Five is more of an event that it is a race".

Isn't that so true about life? We are always so busy with our goals and racing from here to there or feeling our insides race believing there is not enough time, feeling pressure to get things done.

When I ran the Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K Fun Run & Walk, I could feel myself racing and wanting to race since it was my first event after a 2 year running hiatus. I am delighted I did and thrilled my body met the challenge of a 14 minute mile for mile 2 with an overall pace of about a 15 minute/mile.

But the Feaster Five feels different for me and my life now feels different for me. As I turn the corner into my 60th birthday in just about two months, there is nothing to race toward. I want to embrace my life as a sacred event. I want to breathe deeply and slow down while at the same time relishing being able to challenge myself on the roads and in the pool at Spaulding as I, to quote Gil Hedley, enliven what I have.

I was reflecting on how fortunate I am to be able to be outside on a glorious Fall day training for the Feaster Five without any pressure, goals or expectations. I felt a sense of total delight and had faith that we were going the right way. My body embraced the change in scenery from our usual training run route and the hilly terrain. We were so excited when we saw Lisa running toward us to bring us back to Starbucks where we began our 5K training route.

We sat with Lisa, Bob and Melissa enjoying a cup of tea and I a blueberry yogurt honey muffin. We talked about the Striders, the Feaster Five, and touched upon Marathon Monday. We shared health and fitness journeys. We got insider tips for race day.

Sometimes when we get caught up in racing, we forget to put away the technology, pause to stop and share a cup of tea with new friends enjoying the change of seasons because after all life is not a race - it is an event to be cherished.

Presence from the very soon to be released "A Celebration of Life". My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon

gifts of awakening and awareness
come in the oddest of boxes
old age
presence always presenting
for transformation
the physical body
an illusion really
yet necessary
if we are to experience the fullness of life
the journey is the destination
being present
receiving all the gifts that presence presents.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

4-15-13 -- Six Months Later

I was so lucky. I was there and I was so fortunate to have been insulated from witnessing carnage as the 2nd bomb exploded across the street from the Spaulding Rehab Race for Rehab team celebration suite in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

My life was changed forever at approximately 2:50 pm on 4/15/13. My first thought after our dear friend Greg Gordon courageously went to the window overlooking Boylston Street told us "It's a tragedy. People are down," was "You have got to be kidding me. Don't I get some kind of trauma exemption after all I lived through?"

But we don't. Life happens. Horrible things happen and the question becomes, what do we do in the aftermath of these situations?

I gained clarity in many areas of my life. My priorities changed. Relationships changed and those that really mattered became more dear and precious to me. I let go of those relationships that did not honor the Truths that I believe in or did not honor me. With Joseph's skillful and dedicated work, I allowed my wounds of trauma to surface and be healed.

I traded in my yoga mat for the Aquatics Therapy Program at Spaulding Rehab where, under the watchful eye of trained therapists, I am able to build strength.

The wounds and the emotional pain, as intense as it may feel at times, are a whisper of what they once were. The wounds are no longer festering and infected but are healing and transforming into scars. I can feel the healing of my mind, body and soul. I feel a sense of vibrancy and deep deep gratitude and appreciation that I am here---that I am alive especially given how close to death I came when I contracted paralytic polio, during my father's alcoholic rages and my grandmother's psychotic rituals and then on April 15 when we did not know what happened or what was going to happen and whether or not we were going to make it safely to our car and back to our home.

Even though I tremble at times and feel the hair on the back of my neck stand on end; even though my body is still responding and healing as a result of the terror that day and the days that followed, and to the 9 years of terror I had come to know growing up in a chaotic household, I also feel strength and resilience. I feel greater ease and comfort in my own skin and I can feel grounded even as my body may tremble at times and the sadness pours forth from my heart. I feel a sense of celebration that although we all may be a little worse for wear, we are all healing and moving forward.

I feel a resolve to create meaning and purpose in my life through the sharing of my healing story bringing my message of healing, hope and possibility to others.

Here are stories of healing, hope and possibility from marathon bombing survivors.

Former UT Swimmer Returns to Pool Six Months After the Bombings
She taps into her inner athlete to help her heal

Jane Richard 7, Boston bombing survivor sings Anthem at Red Sox Game

Boston Bombing Survivor Serves as Honorary Starter for Baltimore Marathon

Six Months Later A Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor story

Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor Runs Chicago Marathon

And how appropriate that I began my day in Aquatics Therapy Class at Spaulding Rehab where so many bombing survivors found their strength; the place where I found my strength to begin a 7 year healing odyssey in October of 2006, and where I continue to build my strength as a part of the Boston community where together we are indeed Boston Strong.

Be Grateful

Be grateful you’re alive
and never give up
even when your body and mind
freak out
find peace
in the center of your soul
feel your Essence.

and in that moment of surrender
feel joy
freedom in detachment
abiding with the deepest darkest fear
difficulties transform into awakening
free fall
sky diving
the thrill of being fully alive.

Be grateful
feel every sensation
each moment passes
strength of Spirit
thrives in the face of adversity
coal becomes diamond
gold forged in the crucible
hidden treasures
be grateful.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"You look like a runner...

and you probably are."

The race began before the race as Tom and I unexpectedly hit heavy traffic on the way to parking for the BAA Half Marathon. We stayed remarkably calm helped by runners in the car next to us in the rotary as we exchanged comments of "Don't worry, we'll make it." We had to follow the signs that the BAA had put up even though it wasn't the route we were planning on taking to the parking lot. We had to surrender and trust.

I had called the BAA before the race to ask if I could board the shuttle bus from U Mass to the starting line. He had told me that it's not something that they advertise but he did not think that anyone would kick me off the bus if I were with Tom. I told him I'd wear my 2009 Boston Marathon shirt and jacket. He thought that was a good idea.

As we were walking to the shuttle bus, we struck up a conversation with a woman. Tom and the woman had the usual pre race chatter about is this your first...have you run this race before... As we were getting ready to board I mentioned to her what the person at the BAA had said to me and she said, "You look like a runner and you probably're just not running this race right?"

Here is a photo Tom snapped of me on the way to the shuttle bus -- with the caption #runnerswife

I smiled as I got on the bus and said to Tom - hmmm she said I look like a runner. Those words sunk in and had a powerful effect on me.

I have been doing strength training twice a week through the Aquatics Therapy program at Spaulding Rehab. I ran my first 5K, the Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K Fun Run & Walk after a two year running hiatus a few weeks ago and am training for the Feaster Five.

I have resurrected the hero and the champion within me; the woman who IS a runner despite a history of paralytic polio and 9 years of unrelenting violence which took a toll on my body and my mind. The woman who is a back of the pack runner; who power walks but can do a 15 minute/mile pace and the woman who offers no apologies for distance or speed anymore! I enjoy being outdoors and I enjoy moving in my body now. I delight in being a part of the wonderful running community.

I used to move from a place of the image of the little girl who dragged around a leg brace desperately trying to keep up with my brother and his friends walking down Oregon Avenue in Westchester New York to a vibrant, healthy woman who has overcome so much. I have the courage to get out there three times a week and train with heart and soul. I carry myself like a runner.

Part of my joy as a runner is being a spectator supporting and cheering on my husband in his endurance races.

Today he ran the final leg of the BAA Distance Medley. He ran the 5K on April 14th, one day before the Boston Marathon Bombings. He ran the 10K with our daughter Ruth Anne on June 23rd and today he crushed the Half with a 9:54 pace.

Here he is before the race on a gorgeous Autumn day here in New England

And here are more photos from the start of race day--

As I waited in the stands of White Stadium

the announcer said that we could text runner to 345678 and put in our runner's bib number to track them. Tom told me at the start that he was planning to do a 12 minute/mile pace. He said that he felt under trained. I reminded him that he has been running consistently for the past 6 months and he had been doing long runs intermittently over the past 6 months. Last week he did 13 miles! I told him he had this.

What a thrill to get the text at 5 miles that he was doing a 10:32 minute/mile pace and then at 10 miles a 10:00 minute/mile pace. I watched him cross the finish line and screamed "You crushed it."

Tom doesn't run with his phone and we agreed to a meeting spot in case logistics got a little hectic after the race. I told him that I'd come around and meet him. There were literally thousands of people and I thought I would find him coming out of the finish line and food area but I knew I had somehow missed him. I went to our meeting place and he wasn't there. I decided to back around and there he was heading back to the Stadium exit. I screamed, "I found you." The woman standing next to him smiled and laughed out loud.

Today was a day of trusting and patience; celebration and joy. Today was a day of remembering that we are Boston Strong. Today was a day to remember that out of our deepest wounds we find our greatest strength, our most beautiful treasures and the knowledge that love is far greater and more powerful than any experience we endure.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

On Grief, Joy and Gratitude

Tom and I sat in the sun streamed cafeteria at Spaulding Rehab's new facility in Charlestown this morning waiting for our Aquatics Therapy class that focuses on Joint Integrity. A woman sporting a Spaulding badge and a warm smile said, "Good morning" and walked by us. She was wearing a navy blue skirt with a zipper in the back.

I turned to Tom and said, "That's the same skirt I wore when I worked at the VA," and I got choked up and cried. Tom was wonderful and said, "You still miss it, huh?"

I nodded as tears streamed down my face. I was somewhat taken aback by my reaction.

I had a rush of awareness and clarity of what happened to me and what I have experienced during my seven year healing odyssey.

On October 6, 2006, I had an EMG to determine if there was damage from the polio virus in my upper body which would guide the team at Spaulding Rehab's International Center for Polio and Post Polio in my rehab program. I had an appointment for mid-October at the clinic after having found my courage to pick up the phone and call the Center asking for help with a myriad of disabling symptoms that I had presumed and the medical community would concur were related to the polio virus I contracted at the age of 5. That was only the beginning....There was so much more to be understood and healed about what had happened to me.

As I write my memoir, "Coming Home:A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility," I become keenly aware of the pain and losses in the journey. I left my award winning career at the VA Outpatient Clinic. It was more than a job for me. It was a passion of mine to be a fierce advocate for our nation's veterans. I was good at what I did. But there came a time for me to heal the untended wounds of paralytic polio and trauma and to find my way home to myself after giving to so many for so long unaware of how I needed to care for myself, mind, body and Spirit. Now that I am feeling healthy and whole, I can experience the grief of having to leave my career knowing that everything happened as only it could.

But side by side with the sense of grief and sadness, I am also deeply aware and grateful for the healing that I have and continue to experience in my life.

After the Boston Marathon Bombings, Tom and I took a tour of the new Spaulding Rehab Facility. We saw the new Aquatics Therapy Center and were told about outpatient community classes that would be starting up soon. I had a feeling that this was going to be exactly what I needed in this next phase of my healing journey to complement running and bodywork sessions.

This morning we had a very small class. I mentioned to Abbey Turner who was teaching the class for our regular teacher Karis, that my left hamstring and IT band were feeling tight. She said that she would definitely work in some good stretches and exercises to work out the tightness into the class. I still cannot believe that the class is only $10/class and I receive the benefits of aquatic therapy in a 90 degree heated pool with a trained physical therapist to assist me in continuing to heal and move forward from the ravages of paralytic polio and trauma.

This morning Abbey got in the pool with us to have a closer look at the way we were doing our exercises as well as to demonstrate the exercises in the water. There was one challenging exercise for a full body stretch in which we moved opposite hand and opposite leg. I told myself to not think about it and just move. Abbey is so supportive and encouraging. If anything is too challenging, she modifies it so that everyone can experience success in finding their strength at their own level.

Abbey had music on in the background from Pandora which got me pumped when we were doing upper body strengthening with the dumb bells. I said to her and she agreed that it is a lot more pleasant to do this strength training in the pool than with the machines they had at the old hospital on Nashua Street. As Abbey led us through our cool down stretches, she offered a new calf stretch that got deep into my calves, especially on my left leg where it is so hard for me to access a calf stretch.

Before class, I was experiencing a fair amount of joint pain in part because of the 1.2 mile hill that Tom and I incorporated into our training last Saturday. And rather then take off Sunday, I decided that since it was raining and couldn't go on a recovery walk, I would try out our recumbent bike. After 10 minutes I realized this was not a good idea.

How amazing to do a 45 minute workout in the warm water to work everything out as Abbey phrased it and I'll be ready to get out there tomorrow morning to continue my training for the Feaster Five on Thanksgiving morning. The tightness and pain are gone! I experience such joy and freedom in movement in the water being able to work in a way that I cannot on land. The water also nourishes me mind, body and soul. The design of the aquatics room gives us a panoramic view of Boston Harbor and the warmth of the sun bathes us absorbing the heat from the glass in the window. The new Spaulding is a LEED Gold facility.

Seven years ago, I walked into Spaulding Rehab's Outpatient Clinic in Framingham for treatment of post polio syndrome. Based on the severity of the symptoms I experienced and the prognosis, I wasn't sure if I'd be around seven years later. I can honestly say that I feel better, more hopeful, happier, more joy and vibrant and healthier than I have ever been in my life. That's a pretty wonderful way to enter my decade of the sixties in just a little over two months!

Learning to Dance from the soon to be released A Celebration of Life. My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon

It’s never too late
you’re never too old
to learn to dance
paralyzed from polio
paralyzed with fear
frozen in time

awkward and unsure
shame and confusion
I fell into the trap of ego
my leg snared in the jaws of agony and defeat

saved by grace
my rescuer nursed my wounds
tentative steps
stiff and clumsy
painstaking movement
fueled by thoughts of days gone by
the match is lit
no match for darkness
the music of my heart’s desire
moved me to try once again
step by step
the dance of my life
the way I was always meant to dance

yes wrinkles mark the passage of time
I burn brightly

until my dance is done.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Saturday in the South End with Tom

It kind of reminded me of Sunday in the Park With George as Tom and I arrived early to the SpeakEasy Stage Theater on a gorgeous Fall Saturday afternoon in Boston. We had tickets to see the critically acclaimed "Tribes". The City of Boston has placed 75 pianos outdoors for people to sit down and play as part of a two week art installation of the pianos entitled, "Play Me, I'm Yours." One of the pianos was outside the SpeakEasy Stage Theater and there was a troupe of singers bringing the joy of Broadway to the sidewalk of Boston.

The forecast had been for rain but as you can see from these photos, it was a sparkling sunny day.

Walking from our car to the SpeakEasy Stage theater was a joy for me. I was wearing sandals to adorn my outfit. I felt comfortable, free and easy despite having trained on a 1.2 mile hill and done a total of 3.5 miles preparing for my next event, The Feaster Five which takes place on Thanksgiving morning.

After enjoying several performances, we made our way to the box office to pick up our tickets and get settled into our seats.

Tribes is a riveting play about language, communication, belonging, isolation, loneliness and ultimately LOVE.

Here are some links to read more about the show:

The show has been extended through 10/19 due to popular demand. It is a theatrical experience that left Tom and me speechless by the final scene. The themes in the play are universal to the human condition. The struggles of the characters are brought to life by the cast. I forgot that I was watching a play. The staging draws the audience into the world of Billy, Sylvia and his family as the play is performed in a theater in the round style.

After the show, Tom and I walked to Stephi's on Tremont for dinner.

We chose their house salad to start, baby arugula and spinach tossed with lemon olive oil vinaigrette and shaved parmesan cheese. I had the grilled salmon, with fresh picked fava bean succotash, chipotle hazelnut romesco and pea tendrils and Tom selected the Pan roasted new england cod over sweet corn and smokey bacon chowder and herb roasted potatoes, topped with buttermilk onion strings. The service was impeccable and the flavors tickled my palette. We just had to experience one of their in house made desserts and chose the white chocolate cheesecake savoring a hot cup of mint herbal tea. The Red Sox game was on in the background and while there was the din of the diners conversing at individual tables, whenever there was a big play, there was a collective sigh or cheers that echoed throughout the restaurant.

As Tom and I were walking back to our car, I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me. I remember a time not too long ago when this kind of an afternoon and evening would have been a struggle for me; when pain and fatigue prevented me from experiencing a full and vibrant life and when difficulty with swallowing prevented me from enjoying and savoring an amazing meal. I live fully in my body and fully in my life. I can wear sandals. I can walk with ease and comfort down city streets and I can thoroughly enjoy a Saturday in the South End with my husband Tom!

Learning to Dance from the soon to be released A Celebration of Life. My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon.

It’s never too late
you’re never too old
to learn to dance
paralyzed from polio
paralyzed with fear
frozen in time

awkward and unsure
shame and confusion
I fell into the trap of ego
my leg snared in the jaws of agony and defeat

saved by grace
my rescuer nursed my wounds
tentative steps
stiff and clumsy
painstaking movement
fueled by thoughts of days gone by
the match is lit
no match for darkness
the music of my heart’s desire
moved me to try once again
step by step
the dance of my life
the way I was always meant to dance

yes wrinkles mark the passage of time
I burn brightly

until my dance is done.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why Do I Run?

After a restless night on Saturday because I was so excited about Sunday's Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K Fun Run & Walk, my inaugural 5K after a two year running hiatus, I turned over and said to my husband, "Why do I do this to myself?"

Running does not come easy to me. As a matter of fact, I had never run before I laced up my first pair of running shoes in February of 2008 to begin training for the 2009 Boston Marathon. As a survivor of paralytic polio, I hated my body and felt as though my body had betrayed me. I decided in the moments following my collapse on the gymnasium floor in kindergarten that I had no use for my body.

I learned early on to dissociate from my body and then with years of sexual assault followed by physical assault and experiencing torturing rituals at the hands of my grandmother, I left my body for good harnessing the power of my intellect to succeed in the world. Of course I paid a terrible price and at the age of 53 years old, my body shut down in the guise of post polio syndrome.

These past seven years have been quite the adventure of finding my way home. When I took my first steps running in Spring of 2008, my heart rate went up to over 160. I remember the thrill of being able to run for 30 minutes straight. The miles began to build and on April 20, 2009, Team McManus crossed the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon.

I stopped running because my body crashed after the marathon. Then I began running again complete with trash talk about PR's and rode a runner's high until the Spring of 2011 when my nephew's suicide devastated me mind, body and Spirit. The last race I ran - the last race I thought I would ever run was the 2011 Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K Fun Run and Walk.

Coming back to running this time is so different for me. There is no trash talk; no PR's although on Sunday I had a wonderful time testing the limits of my body. I felt a deep satisfaction after the Brookline Symphony 5K Fun Run and Walk.

I couldn't really articulate the feelings. I begin training for the Feaster Five 5K happening on Thanksgiving morning. Training doesn't come easy to me but I sure do love getting out there with Tom to get in the miles and working in hill training.

This evening we had a wonderful aquatics therapy class Find Your Core Strength at Spaulding Rehab. Diana Fischer, the physical therapist with boundless energy and enthusiasm who teaches the class, knows that I am training for another event and is so supportive and encouraging of the cross training I do in the pool. She lets us know the purpose of the different paces she puts us through as we do upper body, core and lower body strength training. It's exciting for me to feel the strength build and to experience how this training is serving me in good stead when I am out on the roads.

And yesterday I came across this quote on running on my friend Chelsea's page:

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But don't think that's the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree.” Murakami

And that dear readers is why I run!

A Neighborhood Run from the soon to be released A Celebration of Life. My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon

Early on a weekend morning
lacing up
heading out
heart open
feeling free
runners pass me left and right
but no matter
I run my own race
keep my own pace
peaceful and content
celebrating health
feeling well and whole
holy integrated
in my sacred earthly home
remembering a time not so long ago
of estrangement from myself
isolated and apart
unworthy and wretched
oh the stories we tell ourselves
but no more
on this late summer day
my neighborhood
coming home in my body
I come home to my life.