Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wednesdays with Joy

   Every Wednesday for the past seven years this wonderful woman comes into our home and embraces us with her endless love and compassion to serve special needs family's like ours. Her name is befitting, her name is Joy. She is a nurse, caregiver, friend, & nurturer to all of us. She has been a "grandmother" to Ari, teaching her things like baking, sewing, and making the best ham and cheese sandwhich that one could ever take a bite out of. And I can't forget the basketball lessons. Joy loves to teach Ari how to dribble a basketball in our hallway, their makeshift basketball court, where Ari pretends to beat her best friend at hoops. She brings countless hours of laughter and joy to our hearts each week. She always takes special care to remind us of the things that Ari CAN do! I think its a gift of hers that we will always cherish.
   Joy has so many special qualities.  I like to call her our very own "Betty White". She has more humor, energy and drive than most twenty somethings. She still works and plays like a person in their thirties. She generously donates her time like a person in their sixties. I am forbidden to share her age but lets just say she could possibly be Betty's younger sister. Joy defies age and limits. She is so full of life and I wish I could bottle her endless optimism. Nothing can keep her down, nothing stops her, not even a terminal illness. If you were to meet her you would have no idea that she is a cancer survivor or that Cancer struck again for the third time this past December. It seems like it was such a long time ago but less than two months have passed since the cancer reared its ugly head.
   It was almost Christmas and I found myself at the hospital everyday with Joy while she was undergoing surgery & treatment for this dreadfull disease. She insisted that I not come to see her, that I had enough on my plate to keep me busy with home, work, and the holidays. But I insisted I needed to be there.  She thanked me for comforting her and told everyone I was there to give her emotional support. What she didn't realize was that I needed reassurance. I needed to see her. I was not ready to say goodbye and I needed another Wednesday with Joy. So everyday became a Wednesday that week, full of endearing moments for me. She said she just wanted to taste a cookie, so I brought 2 dozen of her favorite cookies to share with she and her hospital roomie. I didn't care if she only took one bite, I just wanted her to have a smile on her face. She said she wanted to travel, so I found a beautiful exotic vacation magazine for her to read. She spoke about her unfinished bucket list. I wept privately all week as she talked about her cancer and I listened. During this time I learned even more about this remarkable woman and her life's story. She is truly my Heroe. She is truly a Warrior.
   Last week twenty-five of us gathered for a surprise Birthday bash for Joy. We all came to honor and celebrate the many years Joy has graced our lives with her presence. It was the best birthday party I've gone too in a long time. In true Joy fashion she was so humbled that her family and friends would come together for her special day. We all hope that we can celebrate another birthday with Joy. I secretly hope that I can celebrate more Wednesdays with Joy!
Wishing you Miles of Smiles
~Team Ari

Friday, February 1, 2013

Running for Keeps

   In 2006 I made one of the best decisions of my life, second to marrying the man I love and having three awesome children. Drum roll please .. I decided I wanted to be a runner. Now mind you, I had never been athletic. I was actually rather challenged when it came to sports. My physical activity as a child consisted of cheer leading and dance. But, I had alot of reasons to run now. Ari was a huge incentive  because I knew she should would never be able to run and I just felt like I shouldn't take anything for granted anymore. I also needed a big time stress reliever to keep my sanity. So I started jogging on the treadmill at my local gym and I discovered it was actually pleasant. I really liked breaking a sweat as I tried to get faster on that machine!!!
    So, often times I would challenge myself by increasing the speed or incline on that lovely equipment and I slowly found myself running five miles and not even realizing how much time had passed. I also took great pleasure in running along side of a gym rat who could run faster and looked much more like a runner than myself. I would glance at their numbers on the machine next to mine and take notice of the Miles per hour (Mph), distance, and time logged. I was secretly racing them in my mind!! Slowly but surely I fell in love with running. I started reading running magazines and researching training plans. My very first racing goal was to complete a 5K in less than 30 minutes. I recruited my athletic soccer player son to pace me at my first race. Say Yes to Success. Nic paced me into the finish line in 29 minutes and 49 seconds. A runner was born!!
  And so the story goes, I saved my sanity and kept running, & running through many marathons, and even some ultramarathons. Running was and still is my quiet time, my re-energizer, my peace & calm, my endorphin rush, and my second love. It is and always will be a bonding time with my children that I am eternally grateful for. I have run some extraordinary races in extraordinary places. From the Coastal landscape of Monterey, to the California Headlands, over the Golden Gate Bridge, down the American River Canyon, and through the night at a 200 mile relay in Southern Oregon. From the Redrock Canyons in Utah, to the Historic start line of the Boston Marathon. I have heard the Wall of Cheer from the girls at Wellesy and received many a high five from the Boston College Boys at Heartbreak Hill. I have run through the streets of Paris, down the Champs Elysee to the Eiffel Tower. I have passed Frenchmen and listened to the cheers of Young children as I ran a 20k race from Paris to St Germaine!
   No matter where or how I run  I will always be grateful for the ability I have to use my legs and stride. I cherish each and every run I have experienced with Lindsay, Nic, and now Ari. It has been a labor of love to push Ari in her chair or attempt to keep up with my fast competitive runners Lindsay & Nic. They motivate me and make me want to strive to be my best. Whether its the best runner or being the best mother I can be. Running is for keeps in this family!
~With Miles of Smiles,
Team Ari